Speed Reads

'vexing and heartbreaking'

Independent audit concludes Facebook's decisions represent 'significant setbacks for civil rights'

An independent audit has blasted Facebook for its "vexing and heartbreaking" policy decisions.

A lengthy report on Facebook's policies was released on Wednesday after the company commissioned an independent audit in 2018, and it determined that Facebook has not done enough to crack down on hate speech, Variety and The New York Times report.

"Unfortunately, in our view Facebook's approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal," the report says.

Facebook's "prioritization of free expression over all other values, such as equality and nondiscrimination, is deeply troubling," the report also says, and the auditors express "considerable alarm" that Facebook decided to recently leave up controversial posts by President Trump that they believe "clearly" violated the platform's policies, including one that Twitter flagged for glorifying violence.

"These decisions exposed a major hole in Facebook's understanding and application of civil rights," the report says of leaving up Trump's posts. "While these decisions were made ultimately at the highest level, we believe civil rights expertise was not sought and applied to the degree it should have been and the resulting decisions were devastating."

Facebook has made some "positive and consequential steps," the report says, but "the auditors are concerned that those gains could be obscured by the vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights."

The report was released after CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a meeting with the organizers of an ad boycott against Facebook, which calls for the company to do more against hate speech. The boycott organizers came away from the meeting unhappy, saying "the company's leaders delivered the same old talking points." Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday called the independent audit the "beginning of the journey, not the end," adding it has become "increasingly clear" that "we have a long way to go."