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Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg says the company needs to do more to protect civil rights of users

Key Points
  • Sheryl Sandberg's comments come on the same day the NAACP is launching a week-long boycott of the service, and amid growing calls to clean up the platform.
  • Facebook releases the findings of a civil rights audit, highlighting particular areas of concern on the platform.
  • Facebook has acknowledged and addressed many of the civil rights abuses outlined in the audit report. But as bad actors get increasingly clever and find new ways to manipulate Facebook users, the company faces new challenges and changing calls for action.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said Tuesday, "We know we need to do more" to protect civil rights on the platform.

Her comments come on the same day that the NAACP launched a week-long boycott of the service and that 31 civil rights groups called for a restructuring of Facebook's top ranks. It also comes after a report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee said Russian-backed actors targeted African-American Facebook users in an attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"Facebook is committed to working with leading U.S. civil rights organizations to strengthen and advance civil rights on our service. They've raised a number of important concerns, and I'm grateful for their candor and guidance. We know that we need to do more: to listen, look deeper and take action to respect fundamental rights," Sandberg said.

Facebook released the findings on Tuesday of a civil rights audit led by Laura Murphy, a former director of the ACLU Legislative Office. Murphy highlighted particular areas of concern on the platform, including voter suppression, advertising targeting and practices and diversity among Facebook's own employees.

She advocated for more transparency, improved content moderation and creating a "civil rights advocacy infrastructure."

"For the past several years, civil rights groups have consistently expressed, both publicly and privately, their deeply held concerns about Facebook's products, policies, and practices and their implications on civil and human rights," Murphy said. "The work that has been done over the last six months is an attempt to capture and consolidate their concerns to produce meaningful results. Given Facebook's scope and scale, this continues to be a challenge."

Facebook has acknowledged and addressed many of the civil rights abuses outlined in the audit report. In October, Facebook updated its platform policies to explicitly combat attempts at voter suppression and the spreading of false information about voting. But as bad actors get increasingly clever and find new ways to manipulate Facebook users, the company faces new challenges and changing calls for action.

The audit comes just one day after the release of two independent studies commissioned by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The reports revealed, among other things, that Russian-backed troll accounts disproportionately targeted minorities and marginalized groups.

"We take this incredibly seriously, as demonstrated by the investments we've made in safety and security," Sandberg said of the Senate-commissioned reports.

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