One Big Thing: Is Facebook systematically violating civil rights or protecting free speech?
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What is it?
- A recent independent audit of Facebook’s civil rights record showed that it’s company strategy to prioritize free speech was unsustainable and failed to address issues of hatred, bigotry and manipulation on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.
- This has been accompanied by the largest boycott on Facebook’s ads in history as over 1000 companies stopped paid advertising. Facebook’s leadership held a series of video conferences earlier this week with the boycotts organizers but both parties walked away seemingly dissatisfied.
Why is it important?
- The new report describes Facebook’s current approach to civil rights as “reactive and peacemeal” and claims that the algorithm actually increases polarization and extreme content, particularly around hate speech, bigotry .
- As the 2020 election looms, auditors urge Facebook to address these issues as they could have a long-lasting negative effect on U.S. democracy. Last month, Facebook, Twitter and Google testified to Congress that they are continuing to deal with foreign election meddlers who are using their platforms to sow distrust and widen societal cleavages.
- The boycott has caught Facebook’s attention because of its impact on its revenue stream. This demonstrates the effectiveness of collective action to spur actionable change.
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