Facebook is making an internal civil rights task force permanent, COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post Sunday, a decision that grew out of an ongoing review of the civil rights impact of the social network’s policies and practices.
The task force, which includes key leadership and is to be chaired by Sandberg, will focus on Facebook’s content policies, the fairness of its artificial intelligence, and issues regarding privacy and elections, areas Facebook has struggled with.
In her post, Sandberg said the social network is committed to recruiting people with civil rights expertise to serve on the task force. For example, it’ll work with voting rights experts to ensure the social network isn’t used to suppress or intimidate some voters.
The formalization of the task force, as well as recommendations on policing hate speech, new policies on advertisements and efforts to protect the integrity of elections and the 2020 census, were included in the company’s second progress report on its civil rights audit, which was also published Sunday. The first installment was published in December, and a third and final report is expected in the first half of next year.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s technology, including AI, is getting better at recognizing hate speech on its own, the report said. As of March, Facebook removed more than 65% of hate speech that it identified before a user reported it, more than double the 24% figure from December 2017, according to the report. The company may have some of its content moderators specialize in hate speech so that posts warning of hate speech aren’t inappropriately removed because they repeat problematic content.
The report also addressed changes to Facebook’s ad targeting system, including adjustments that make it more difficult for advertisers to exclude some groups from receiving housing, employment and credit ads. It also listed efforts to protect elections and encourage participation in the census.
In addition to the task force, Sandberg said the company would provide civil rights training to key employees working on relevant products and policies. The training is meant to increase awareness of civil rights issues and build them into decisions.
“We know these are the first steps to developing long-term accountability,” Sandberg wrote. “We plan on making further changes to build a culture that explicitly protects and promotes civil rights on Facebook.”