Over the weekend, Facebook finally released a civil rights audit of their platform in response to demands for accountability and transparency from MediaJustice, our Change the Terms coalition, and dozens of other civil rights groups. This followed years of documented incidents in which the safety of users of color on the platform has been undermined, white supremacy has been allowed to flourish, and the company has instead invested in silencing the advocacy of racial justice groups like Color of Change.
The release of the audit represents an important step from the world’s largest social media company towards truly protecting the civil rights of its users. However, short term solutions mean nothing without a long term commitment to civil rights infrastructure at Facebook. Madihha Ahussain, in a statement from MediaJustice Network member Muslim Advocates, explains:
The murder of 51 Muslims in Christchurch broadcast all over the world on Facebook Live, made it clear that this is a life and death matter—still, the company has yet to take serious action to protect our community…There is no more time for cosmetic half-measures. Bold, structural change is needed now and that must start with Facebook’s board.Madihha Ahussain
Facebook has demonstrated through the takedown of child pornography and ISIS related content in the past that it can be aggressive and effective in taking down content—when it so desires. Yet, this week’s civil rights audit does not lay out a path to aggressively take down hate speech and prevent the spread of white supremacist ideology. What’s the hold up?
Despite the progress report, Facebook can do more to be transparent about the people that will be involved in upholding civil rights at various levels of leadership moving forward. And these people cannot simply be those at the top of the company, like COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but rather people of color who can speak to the specific issues our communities face online.
We look forward to working closely with Facebook to ensure the short term progress of the audit is codified into longer term civil rights protections for its users.