Facebook faces more pressure over charges of racial bias in censorship

Nearly 80 civil rights groups and supporters are accusing Facebook of racially biased censorship and want to meet with the company about their concerns.

Facebook engages in “consistent and disproportionate censorship of Facebook users of color or Facebook’s interactions with law enforcement,” according to a letter signed by the ACLU, Color of Change, SumOfUs and more.

The letter, dated this week, is the coalition’s second letter to the world’s largest social network about the issue. The group says Facebook’s response did not adequately address the issues it raised in an October letter.

“In a time when democracy is under great threat, we strongly urge you to reconsider our recommendations,” the coalition said in its latest letter. It asks for a meeting at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters later this month or early February.

“We received the letter and are looking into the concerns they raise,” a Facebook spokeswoman told SiliconBeat in an email Thursday. “We truly value input from our community so appreciate the thoughtfulness of their feedback on these important issues.”

As we wrote in October about the coalition’s first letter, the group wants more transparency from Facebook about how it chooses to censor content. Last year, Facebook removed content — temporarily or permanently — that was related to police action involving African-Americans. That included video of the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile, and the deactivation of the account of Korryn Gaines, who posted Instagram video of her hourslong standoff with police in Minnesota. Both Castile and Gaines died.

In its December response to the coalition, Facebook pointed to its twice-a-year release of its government requests report; says it provides people with chances to appeal takedowns; and says it follows guidelines when complying with law-enforcement requests.

The civil rights coalition says that isn’t enough, and further details its concerns:

Activists in the Movement for Black Lives have routinely reported the takedown of images discussing racism and during protests, with the justification that it violates Facebook’s Community Standards. At the same time, harassment and threats directed at activists based on their race, religion, and sexual orientation is thriving on Facebook. Many of these activists have reported such harassment and threats by users and pages on Facebook only to be told that they don’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards.

Shortly before the coalition sent Facebook its first letter in October, the social network had declared that it would “begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest,” even if it might violate the company’s community standards.


Photo: Facebook’s icon. (AP)


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