- Facebook's auditors are calling for the company to hire more experts with backgrounds in civil rights.
- The proposed changes were detailed in the company's third and final civil rights audit, which was published on Wednesday.
- Facebook has already created a civil rights task force and has committed to hiring a senior leader to oversee civil rights initiatives.
- But auditors say the company needs to do more, and that includes hiring more people with dedicated roles focused on civil rights.
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Facebook is committing to hiring a civil rights leader, but auditors are urging the tech giant to hire more employees with expertise in civil rights for dedicated positions throughout the company.
The findings were part of the company's third and final civil rights audit report published on Wednesday, capping a two-year-long process that began in 2018.
"In particular, it's absolutely essential that the company do more to build out its internal civil rights infrastructure," the report read. "More expertise is needed in-house, as are more robust processes that allow for the integration of civil rights perspectives."
The audit focused on seven key areas for Facebook: civil rights accountability structure, elections and census 2020, content moderation and enforcement, diversity and inclusion, advertising practices, algorithmic bias, and privacy.
Civil rights leader Laura W. Murphy led the audit, along with a team from civil rights law firm Relman Colfax spearheaded by Megan Cacace.
The final report comes after Facebook has been caught in a slew of controversies over topics related to election interference, consumer privacy, the spread of misinformation, and its policies on content moderation and free speech. Among the company's most recent troubles is the decision by more than 40 major brands to halt advertising on Facebook after the social media platform opted not to take action against posts from President Trump regarding the protests held after the death of George Floyd.
Although the auditors commended the tech giant for existing efforts and progress, it also noted that the company still has a long way to go. In particular, the auditors took issue with Facebook's decision not to fact-check post from politicians, especially its lack of action against posts from President Trump.
"While the audit process has been meaningful, and has led to some significant improvements in the platform, we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are
serious setbacks for civil rights," the report read.
One of the many changes the auditors asked for in the report involves hiring dedicated civil rights experts to address civil rights concerns throughout all aspects of the company, from product development to key decision-making.
"In the Auditors' view, the more Facebook is able to embed civil rights experts onto existing teams, the better those teams will be at identifying and addressing civil rights risks, and the more civil rights considerations will be built into the company's culture and DNA," the auditors wrote.
Facebook has made some efforts on this front: It's created a Civil Rights Task Force led by Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer. It's also hired experts and consultants with voting and and census expertise to train employees and increase efforts to combat misinformation and voter suppression, the report notes.
Facebook has also committed to providing civil rights training for key employees and has created a new senior role specifically for civil rights leadership.
But the auditors say Facebook needs to go further by building out a team of experts to support the company's civil rights leader, rather than making it one aspect of existing employees' jobs.
"There is a difference between working full-time (as members of the civil rights leader's team) on identifying and resolving civil rights concerns, and having civil rights be one component of a job otherwise focused on other areas (as is the case for members of the Civil Rights Task Force)," the audit report read. "While the Auditors recognize that Facebook has agreed to allow the civil rights leader to build a team over time, they are concerned that without more resources up front, the leader will be overwhelmed before there is any opportunity to do so."
It's unclear which changes from the audit Facebook will actually put into practice, as Sandberg notes that it will not be implementing all of the recommendations from the report. She did say, however, that the company has started the process of bringing more civil-rights expertise in-house.
"While we won't make every change they call for, we will put more of their proposals into practice," Sandberg wrote. "We have started to do that — and we are making new commitments today."
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