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Facebook is being accused of ‘racially biased censorship’ by the ACLU

A collection of almost 80 civil rights groups are accusing Facebook of “racially biased censorship.” They are saying the company needs to be more transparent about its removal policies and cooperation with law enforcement. This adds to the criticism Facebook has been facing in recent months over the way it manages the content posted or shared by its 1.8 billion users.

The letter of criticism from the civil rights groups was in direct response to a letter from Facebook’s Senior Vice President Joel Kaplan. The letter reflected the groups’ increasing impatience with Facebook and the way they have inadequately addressed the groups’ concerns over biased censorship despite continued promises of action from senior executives.

The groups said Kaplan’s response “merely explains current, publicly available Facebook policies and fails to address the modest solutions to racially biased censorship we presented in earlier letters and meetings.” SumOfUs, Center for Media Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union were some of the signers of the letter of complaint.

Kaplan acknowledged Facebook’s community operations team “sometimes get things wrong” but insisted his company is committed to rectifying mistakes and cooperating with outside partners.

Facebook has been constantly criticized over the past year for the way it enforces harassment, extremist propaganda, gun sales, news hoaxes, and etc. on its massive platform. The company has responded with tweaks to its existing terms of service and community standards. Most recently, Facebook has faced controversy over displays of violence during live video broadcast.

The company recently announced a new “Journalism Project,” which it hopes will improve and deepen its relationship with news organizations. It’s one in a series of moves the company intends to make in order to respond to criticism they didn’t do enough to combat the issue of fake news stories during the U.S. presidential campaign.

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The civil rights groups stated their organizations experienced an “uneven application” of Facebook’s community standards, which relies on users to report abusive content. They said racial justice activists routinely had content that discusses racism or protests removed. All the while content with harassment and threats targeting users on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation were “thriving” on Facebook.

“This pattern of censorship represents a double standard, one that seems to be addressed only through direct activist intervention or significant media attention,” the groups wrote.

In order to handle a million or more content complaints per day, Facebook uses a multilayered system to handle complaints flagged by users. The complaints are then reviewed by low-level staffers and contractors who refer to a thick rule book to interpret and apply the company’s policies. This is compared to the relatively sparse community standards that users are asked to abide by.

Several recommendations were made to Facebook by the civil rights groups in its letter, including the ability for individual posts, profiles, or pages that are banned to appeal the removal. They recommended that Facebook give users a written justification when a post is removed. It was also suggested that a public report be generated which includes figures on content removals and the amount of takedown requests from law enforcement. The groups noted that Facebook should provide additional training on racial discrimination for content reviewers.

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6 comments

Manny Baptiste September 2, 2019 at 12:08 pm

This is what happens when you don’t hire more POCs (People of Color)!!!

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JP Maurice December 2, 2019 at 3:22 pm

I KNEW IT !! FB RACIALLY CENSORED MY Account SO MANY TIMES AND PUT ME ON THIRTY DAY SUSPENSIONS. For stating when I didn’t like some white racist bullshit ! I’ll testify ! I’ll be a witness to fb racially motivated censorship. Fuck fb ! Racist bastards !

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Kelly September 3, 2019 at 6:23 am

Maybe we should shut our own account down and do our own, but in another way. Harriet Tubman did it. We can do it for us, by us, our way.

I never go where I am not welcomed.

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Brian September 3, 2019 at 7:25 pm

From my observation, nobody who is in a position to do something about what FB is doing is willing to do anything.

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Being Nasty Online 24/7 | Chamblee54 September 9, 2019 at 10:38 am

[…] Great prose, or not? by Mikhail Simkin A Skin Too Few – The Days of Nick Drake [2000] Facebook is being accused of ‘racially biased censorship’ by the ACLU The Radical Faeries Of Kawashaway Sanctuary Three quadruple shootings in Baltimore, many with young […]

Reply
Lily October 23, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Facebook kicked me off for sayingwe don’t want to kill all white people. We just want white people to stop killing us. I’m now banned for a week for asking people to stop murdering us. ACLU is the class action lawsuit coming soon?

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