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Ahead of forthcoming audit, civil rights community and tech leaders set record of expectations, recommendations at forum with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Public Policy Director Neil Potts 

Atlanta—Today, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, Color Of Change, convened a comprehensive series of policy discussions between Facebook’s senior leadership, including COO Sheryl Sandberg and Public Policy Director Neil Potts, and leaders and representatives of the communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the platform’s slow response to civil rights harms. Over the course of the day, stakeholders from the civil rights and Black tech communities challenged Facebook to raise the bar for its civil rights audit, due at the end of this year, and build infrastructure that makes the protection of civil rights an operational priority for the company.

In a five-hour forum driven by Color Of Change, nearly 100 participants discussed four areas critical to ensuring the protection of civil rights on the platform: curbing misinformation and voter suppression ahead of 2020; improving diversity in tech; ensuring effective  content moderation and enforcement; and building economic power online. Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson and Managing Director of Campaigns Arisha Hatch were joined by Facebook’s leadership as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund’s President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights’ President and Chief Executive Office Vanita Gupta; the author of Facebook’s civil rights audit Laura Murphy; and representatives of other historically marginalized groups. Black tech leaders in Atlanta, including the city’s Chief Information Officer Gary Brantley, and groups belonging to the Change the Terms coalition also participated.

“Today’s event moves the conversation around digital civil rights forward, and offers a glimpse into the potential of consistent dialogue between the civil rights and technology communities. As a result of the conversation Color Of Change drove with Facebook, leaders at the company directly heard our communities’ urgent priorities for protecting civil rights online, including a robust civil rights audit that leads to the establishment of a permanent civil rights infrastructure,” said Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson. “No single forum can alter the massive, systemic challenges at Facebook, but Sheryl’s commitment to listen and engage on these issues is the first step toward a necessary cultural shift at Facebook. The credibility of Facebook’s efforts to create a safe and inclusive platform depends on meaningful engagement with our communities’ expertise—and an urgent, thoughtful response to the concerns and priorities we shared today. Facebook has a responsibility to the people in the room, the communities we represent, and to our democracy to make sure these conversations continue, and are followed by tangible policy and cultural shifts.”

President Rashad Robinson’s opening remarks can be found HERE.

The latest update to the civil rights audit, released on June 30, 2019, made notable progress, including the creation of a Civil Rights Task Force headed by Sandberg. However, Facebook has yet to commit to structural changes, including establishing protocols for evaluating the potential discriminatory impacts of new products or a proactive enforcement process necessary to achieve a discrimination-free platform. A recent announcement by the company to make exceptions for hate speech from elected leaders, as a matter of “newsworthiness,” was highlighted as an area for Facebook to improve.

While engaging with Facebook around the civil rights audit, Color Of Change is also pushing for external intervention that will ensure civil rights become an operational priority at Facebook. On May 5, 2019 Color Of Change filed an exempt solicitation notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission, urging Facebook shareholders to withhold their support for the nomination of Mark Zuckerberg to the board of directors. The 10-1 voting power held by the joint CEO-Chair role jeopardizes the long-term viability of civil rights progress at the company.

Today’s convening follows a significant reversal in Facebook’s engagement with Color Of Change. This time last year, Facebook, through its public relations agency Definers, attempted to discredit Color Of Change in the media using anti-Black and anti-Semitic tropes about George Soros–even while Color Of Change was negotiating with the company in a good-faith attempt to shape the civil rights audit. As President Rashad Robinson noted in an open letter to Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg following the revelations, Facebook’s strategy coincided with an uptick of attacks and harassment against Color Of Change staff. After a closed-door meeting on November 29, 2018, Facebook committed–for the first time ever–to publicly release progress on its audit. A full timeline of Color Of Change campaign to improve Facebook is below. 




Facebook Agrees For First Time To Publicly Release Progress of Civil Rights Audit

Color Of Change For Immediate Release: November 30, 2018 Media Contact: Kwame Belle, | Michelle Morris,   Color Of Change Secures Key Concessions At Meeting with Sheryl Sandberg, Though Company Refuses to Turn Over Details of Definers Attacks on the Organization PALO ALTO – After years of delay in implementing changes that address […]

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