WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) on Friday wrote to Facebook urging the company to strengthen efforts to protect civil rights, remove hate speech, and combat voter suppression on its platforms by heeding recommendations of a newly released audit of the company’s civil rights policies and practices. The audit, which took place through two years and drew upon interviews with hundreds of civil rights organizations and advocates, offered a critical assessment of the company’s efforts to address longstanding concerns about how its platforms damage American democracy and civil rights by amplifying disinformation, voter suppression, and hate speech.
The audit acknowledged that, although Facebook has made progress in some areas, many of the company’s recent decisions represent “significant setbacks for civil rights.” For example, the audit pointed to Facebook’s decision not to fact check President Trump’s repeated falsehoods about vote-by-mail, which is widely used in both California and Colorado, allowing them to sow confusion and potentially suppress voting. The audit also urged the company to devote more resources to address hate against vulnerable populations on its platforms, root out white separatism and white nationalism in all its forms. The audit also urged the social media company to calculate how its policies and tools may fan polarization and radicalization by pushing people toward “extremist echo chambers.” In the letter, the senators asked Facebook to describe how it plans to address the concerns raised in the audit by August 15.