HR Groups Publicly Call Out Facebook for Bias & Censorship

This is not really the first time that Facebook has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. This time around, they have been accused of censoring posts and users based on personal/political preferences instead of actual and factual content.

There are several examples of this and we have covered some of them last year as well. This time, around 80 human right groups have accused Facebook of racially biased censorship. SumOfUs, Centre for Media Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union and others were included among the signatories.

They also accused the social media giant of not being transparent about its page/post/account removal policies and failing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

Human Rights Groups Demand Answers From Facebook

The human right groups responded to a letter by Facebook Vice President of Public Policy Joel Kaplan. Joel’s letter failed to address the concerns raised by the human right groups despite affirmations from the senior executives at Facebook to take action.

The Vice President’s letter said that sometimes Facebook’s team gets things wrong but they were committed to fixing their mistakes and working with third parties.

According to the groups, Joel’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.’

Facebook Called Out On Having Double Standards

The human right groups in their letter responding to the Facebook VP mentioned the social media does not evenly apply its community standards on its users. It also primarily relies on users reporting abusive content which also introduces another flaw in the system; wrongly accused users targeted under cyber-bullying.

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They argued that racial justice activists have their discussions about racism or protests removed. Harassment and threats based on a user’s religion, race or gender aren’t removed on the other hand.

The letter by the human right groups mentions,

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

Recommendations To Resolve These Issues

They proceeded to make some recommendations to Facebook to solve this issue. One of these recommendations was to allow users to appeal removals of individual posts as well. Normally you can appeal for only page or profile removals.

Another recommendation said that the users should be given a written justification of why their post was removed in the first place. Continuing further they also recommended that a public report should be made which details the takedown requests by law enforcement agencies and the content removed.

Content reviewers should also be trained to handle racial discrimination in users’ posts as well.

The human right groups requested a meeting with Facebook at their Menlo Park headquarters in early February to discuss these recommendations.