Published: Wed, July 03, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Facebook Bans Ads Discouraging People From Voting Ahead Of US Election

Facebook Bans Ads Discouraging People From Voting Ahead Of US Election

These policies include the banning of negative ads, such as those that attempt to persuade users not to vote for a particular candidate.

Facebook plans to treat the 2020 US Census "like an election" - with "people, policies, and technology in place" to protect against interference, the company said Sunday.

The policy is among several changes Facebook announced in a report on its continuing civil rights audit, which is reviewing discrimination and biases on the social media platform. In 2016 Russian Federation tried to influence the results of the American elections. Facebook is making an internal civil rights task force permanent, COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post.

Sandberg and other executives have been meeting with civil rights groups and politicians for months to discuss the audit in response to intense scrutiny in recent years for its content policies.

"The burden still remains on victimized community members to report content and hope that the company will address the problem", Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group said in a statement on Facebook's civil rights audit.

In March, Facebook banned the words "white supremacy", "white separatism", and "white nationalism".

This year, after a broad backlash about its insufficient policy, Facebook banned explicit discussion of white nationalism and white separatism.

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The latest report, however, concedes that this ban is not expansive enough to effectively police against the incitement of hate speech.

"The report recommends we go further to include content that supports white nationalist ideology even if the terms "white nationalism" and "white separatism" aren't explicitly used". At the time, a Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost that the video did not promote white nationalism but was merely a discussion about ethnicity.

Activists have demanded that Facebook do more to protect civil rights for years, including blocking discriminatory advertising for housing, employment and credit offers. Filtering out the sea of information on its platform is understandably very hard, which is why Facebook is planning to use artificial intelligence technologies to help it out.

The report also addressed changes to Facebook's ad targeting system, including adjustments that make it more hard for advertisers to exclude some groups from receiving housing, employment and credit ads. However, many civil rights leaders directly involved in discussions with Facebook say the company has only agreed so far to half-steps unlikely to effect substantive change.

Facebook previously removed various categories to prevent ads being filtered based on protected classes.

Tensions between Facebook and civil rights groups escalated past year after The New York Times reported that public relations firm Definers Public Affairs tried to discredit Facebook's critics by linking them to George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who's been the target of anti-Semitic and far-right conspiracy theories for championing progressive causes. This expands on the aforementioned anti-interference efforts rolled out for elections.

The fact that Facebook had failed to take these relatively simple measures without external review suggests fundamental weaknesses in the way the company considers its impact on human rights.

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