Facebook aims to prevent census misinformation after criticism for voter-suppression ads

Facebook creates civil rights task force as review of policies continues

According to external auditors, who were appointed by Facebook in 2018 to oversee its goals of "advancing civil rights on our platform", Facebook's overly narrow implementation of its own rules was hampering moderation.

Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google's YouTube have come under fire for not doing enough to curb disinformation, hate speech and terrorist propaganda.

The company's control over what users can share - and what they can't - has been a key issue for those who believe Facebook has too much power.

"With both the U.S. Census and the U.S. presidential elections, 2020 will be big year", Sandberg wrote. The task force, which includes key leadership and is to be chaired by Sandberg, will focus on Facebook's content policies, the fairness of its artificial intelligence, and issues regarding privacy and elections, areas Facebook has struggled with. This initial round of updates saw Facebook beef up its policy surrounding voter suppression and misinformation, such as false claims of polling place closures, long lines and waiting times, which were reportedly leveraged by campaigns originating in Russian Federation to target African American voters. The company is training its algorithms to check for misinformation, creating a team responsible for developing and rolling out new tools and hiring a consultant to train employees to check census-related content, the report said. And it will launch a new policy in the fall banning any content aimed at misleading users about the upcoming census.

Till earlier this year, terms like "White nationalism" and "white separatism" were allowed on Facebook as the company only considered white "supremacy" breaching its hate speech policies.

For example, auditors were able to investigate a sample of instances where the company had incorrectly taken down content as "hate speech" and identify specific measures Facebook could take to reduce error rates.

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Facebook will "very soon" consider closing a loophole that now permits hate speech to remain on the platform if it claims to be humor, said Neil Potts, Facebook's director of public policy. The report adds that Facebook posts should be banned even if those exact terms are not used.

The social media platform announced in March it would ban "praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on Facebook and Instagram", which it said would be enforced from the beginning of April.

Muslim Advocates, another group involved in the talks, said the report highlights Facebook's failure to take "meaningful action" against threats of violence by white nationalists.

They recommend Facebook prohibit efforts to organize harassment campaigns on its platform and better understand the conditions facing activists and journalists who are more vulnerable to such harassment.

The almost 30-page document is the result of dozens of meetings in Washington, U.S.A. between Facebook's appointed civil rights ambassador - former ACLU legislative director Laura Murphy, a widely respected advocate in the field - and about 90 prominent U.S. civil rights groups, including Muslim Advocates and Colour of Change.

"The truth is Facebook knows it needs to do more", Murphy, the report's author, said in an interview about some of their proposals. "Part of that means, they need to put ongoing energy into this work".

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