Facebook launches civil rights task force ahead of 2020 US polls
San Francisco: Facebook has announced a civil rights task force that would help the social networking giant fight political interference in the 2020 presidential campaign and census.
The task force will have onboard civil rights expertise to ensure it is effective in addressing areas like content policy, fairness in artificial intelligence, privacy, and elections.
"We will work with voting rights experts to make sure key members of our election team are trained on trends in voter intimidation and suppression so they can remove this content from Facebook more effectively," Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, said in a blog post on Sunday.
Facebook witnessed heavy political interference from nation-state actors during the 2016 US presidential election on its platform.
"With both the US Census and the US presidential elections, 2020 will be big year. An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers.
"That's why we're going to treat next year's census like an election -- with people, policies and technology in place to protect against census interference," said Sandberg.
The announcement came in the wake of a leading civil rights expert Laura Murphy releasing her second interim report in a multi-year audit of Facebook.
Murphy began leading an audit more than a year ago with support from the noted civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax. She spoke to more than 90 civil rights organizations and people from Facebook's policy, product and enforcement teams.
"We're also introducing civil rights training for all senior leaders on the task force and key employees who work in the early stages of developing relevant products and policies," informed Sandberg.
Facbook said it now bans praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism.
"The report recommends we go further to include content that supports white nationalist ideology even if the terms 'white nationalism' and 'white separatism' aren't explicitly used. We're addressing this by identifying hate slogans and symbols connected to white nationalism and white separatism to better enforce our policy," Sandberg announced.
In March this year, Facebook announced settlement agreements with leading civil rights organizations to change how US housing, employment and credit ads are run on Facebook.
"As a result of the settlement, we're rolling out updates so anyone who wants to run US housing, employment and credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code and will have a much smaller set of targeting categories overall," the Facebook COO added.
To protect elections, said Sandberg, the company has a team across product, engineering, data science, policy, legal and operations dedicated full time to these efforts.
"We expect to finalize a new policy and its enforcement before the 2019 gubernatorial elections. This is a direct response to the types of ads we saw on Facebook in 2016," she added.