Facebook announces new measures to tackle harmful content

Amid growing brand backlash, Facebook releases new measure to curb racial hate speech and US election misinformation on the platform

Facebook has announced it’s tightening its rules around hurtful content as more brands boycott the platform. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, shared the platform’s renewed efforts from its second civil rights audit. The move comes as more brands boycott Facebook over hate content spread on the giant social media platform.

Led by civil rights and civil liberties advocate, Laura Murphy, and supported by civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax, the four areas of changes came after Facebook canvassed its policy, product and enforcement teams and civil rights organisations.

The platform said it's strengthening its policies and enforcement against harmful content. It already has bans on white nationalism and white separatism and now the latest report recommends it extend that to any material that supports white nationalist ideology.

“We’re addressing this by identifying hate slogans and symbols connected to white nationalism and white separatism to better enforce our policy,” Sandberg wrote on the platform.

Facebook said it's also continuing to try to tackle ads which can be deemed discriminatory. It is rolling out updates so US housing, employment and credit ads can no longer target by age, gender or zip code, and will have a much smaller set of targeting categories overall. Facebook intends to have full enforcement by the end of the year.

“We will also have a tool where you can search for and view current US housing ads by advertiser and location, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you,” Sandberg wrote.

This comes as more brands are boycotting Facebook over hate content which is spread on the giant social media platform is response to the ‘Stop hate for profit’ campaign launched recently by a group of civil rights groups and press including Colour of Change, NAACP, ADL, Sleeping Giants, Common Sense Media and Free Press. The campaign calls on advertisers to pause ad spending on Facebook and Instagram in July in protest against the way hateful content was spreading online and has seen brands including The North Face, Ben & Jerrys, Patagonia, Verizon and consumer products giant, Unilever, join the boycott.  

In addition, Facebook said it’s acting to protect the 2020 census and US elections against misinformation. It will deploy artificial intelligence (AI) and a dedicated team to stem misinformation spreading through the platform and working to ban ads that discourage people from voting and will have a team including engineering, data science and operations devoted to the election.

“It builds on the work we’ve done over the past year to prevent voter suppression and stay ahead of people trying to misuse our products,” wrote Sandberg.

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