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In blistering audit, civil rights leaders raise alarms about Facebook’s ongoing policy failures

The results of a multiyear investigation into Facebook’s policies and their consequences for the civil liberties of its more than 2.5 billion users are out.
The audit, conducted by former ACLU director Laura W. Murphy and lawyers from law firm Relman Colfax set out by collecting concerns from a broad swath of civil rights organizations concerned about Facebook’s growing power and its potentially harmful reverberations through marginalized communities in particular and democratic society more broadly. The auditors also used concerns from some lawmakers, who have become increasingly critical of Facebook since the 2016 U.S. election, to steer their investigation. The ultimate goal of the project was to “make sure important civil rights laws and principles are respected, embraced and robustly incorporated” into the social network.
As the report notes, the audit doesn’t situate Facebook’s decisions in the context of it competitors, instead evaluating the company’s behavior on its own. The approach is useful, because social media companies often get a pass for behavior that’s standard in the industry, an approach that lowers standards across the board rather than looking at real-world impacts. The auditors make a point of giving Facebook credit for its cooperation in the audit, which the company itself undertook with pressure from outside groups concerned about its failings on issues like race-based hate, misinformation, voter suppression and extremism.
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