According to an external civil rights audit, the decision of tech giant Facebook to allow several posts by U.S. President Donald Trump established a terrible precedent that could allow the platform to be weaponized to suppress voting.
The report added that Facebook has not done enough to protect its users from discrimination, fake news, and incitement to violence.
Several big brands like Coca-Cola Co, Unilever Plc, and many other boycotted Facebook advertising system as a part of the actions by American civil rights groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP which started the whole thing to put pressure on Facebook to take steps in order to block hate speech. The auditors wrote:
“Many in the civil rights community have become disheartened frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression.’’
They also expressed concern about Facebook’s commitment to protect a particular definition of free speech, even where that has meant allowing harmful and divisive rhetoric that amplifies hate speech and threatens civil rights.
“By declining to hold politicians to the same rules as everyone else, Facebook created a hierarchy of speech that privileges certain voices over others,’’ added the auditors.
The report correctly assessed Facebook’s approach as incremental and counterproductive, according to Racial justice group Color of Change, while the Muslim Advocates added that the company enables anti-Muslim violence. The auditors also said:
“Allowing the Trump posts to remain establishes a terrible precedent that may lead other politicians and non-politicians to spread false information about legal voting methods, which would effectively allow the platform to be weaponized to suppress voting.’’
According to Reuters, Facebook commissioned the audit in 2018 as part of its response to a range of criticism over issues such as data privacy, voter suppression, incitement of violence, and a lack of transparency in political advertising. The audit was led by Laura Murphy, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office.