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Rashad Robinson on Facebook’s Response to Civil Rights Audit: ‘Come On’

Charlie Warzel, writing for The New York Times:

Facebook’s long-awaited civil rights audit is now public and it isn’t flattering. The 100-plus-page report laid bare many of the issues facing the platform — that Facebook does not fully understand how its algorithms drive hate, that anti-Muslim speech is “rampant,” that Facebook’s reforms never fix the problem — and warned the company may be “driving people toward self-reinforcing echo chambers of extremism.”

Warzel interviewed Rashad Robinson, the head of the civil rights group Color of Change, who met with Mark Zuckerberg regarding the audit and its conclusions:

Warzel: You met with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook over Zoom on Tuesday and told my Times colleagues, “They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance. Attending alone is not enough.” Do you think Facebook actually understands this problem?

Robinson: It’s so frustrating. We are doing a lot of work for a multibillion-dollar company and it’s just always dispiriting we have to do this for them because they won’t do it for themselves.

Mark was talking about how much hate they’re catching and throwing this number out: 89 percent [that the company catches 89 percent of hate speech before it is reported by users]. And I was like, “Come on. Even I see this stuff on my feed and my algorithms are pretty trained around progressive stuff.” And I tell you that to say that what they’re doing is gaslighting. You’re in these meetings and you’re listening to them explain their rationale and thinking, “Nope, that’s not how this works.” And you’re left with this choice: Do I argue with the very premise that they don’t seem to understand the actual problem of their platform? Or do I argue with the number — that catching only 89 percent of hate isn’t something to be happy with?

Robinson speaks with clarity and concision. His criticisms of Facebook are clear, bracing, and obviously true.

Monday, 13 July 2020