Following a tumultuous month for Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the social media company plans to hire outside advisers to conduct legal audits of its potential bias of conservative voices and its impact on minority communities, according to an exclusive report from Axios.
This initiative follows allegations and concerns of bias voiced by conservative publishers, as well allegations of discrimination by minorities.
During a House Judiciary hearing on April 26, Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs cited an original study by The Western Journal that outlined Facebook’s news feed algorithm change in February that resulted in conservative sites falling in the rankings of the most engaged pages on the platform while left-leaning outlets rose.
More recently, social media personalities and Trump supporters Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson — professionally known together as Diamond and Silk — appeared before a House Judiciary Committee to address their accusations that Facebook had limited the reach of their content.
Former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, and his team at Covington and Burling, a Washington law firm, will head up the conservative bias advising part of the audit, Axios reported.
The audit will include examining the alleged bias on Facebook internally and on its services, as well as receiving feedback directly from conservative groups and platforms.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative D.C. based think tank, will convene meetings with Facebook executives, Axios reported.
“From what I’ve heard, it sounds encouraging that Facebook is taking steps to evaluate where things stand in the marketplace and hear concerns,” said Rob Bluey, VP of communications and Heritage and Editor-in-chief of The Daily Signal.
Facebook has also faced accusations of discrimination against minorities for several years.
“African Americans, Hispanic Americans and others have voiced concerns over Facebook’s ad tools allowing users to target ads to ‘Jew Haters’ and exclude some minority groups from housing ads,” Axios reported.
Facebook addressed these allegations in 2016, and said the company’s policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for “discrimination, harassment, disparagement or predatory advertising practices.”
“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook, told ProPublica. “We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”
This portion of the audit will be advised by Laura Murphy, a national civil liberties and civil rights leader who works as the Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.
“Murphy will take feedback from civil rights groups, like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and advise Facebook on the best path forward,” Axios reported.
“We are encouraged by Facebook’s commitment to conduct a civil rights audit of the company and its products, and the team they have selected to do it,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“We will remain vigilant until Facebook does everything in its power to reduce the civil rights harm its platform enables.”
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