Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook was not “sufficiently attuned” to how its algorithms inadvertently fuel extreme and polarizing content,” according to a two-year audit of its practices released July 8.

Commissioned by Facebook, the report found its approach to civil rights to be “reactive and piecemeal.” It says Facebook made “heartbreaking” decisions during the past nine months that were “serious setbacks for civil rights.”

Authors Laura Murphy, a civil rights activist, and Megan Cacace, lawyer at Relman Colfax, faulted the social media platform for not being “invested enough in tackling hate speech against groups, such as Muslims and Jews, and failed to adequately address voter suppression and concerns about algorithmic bias.”

The report took issue with Facebook’s decision to allow controversial posts by president Trump to remain on the platform though they violated the company’s policies.

The president’s posts, coupled with Facebook’s policy of allowing misleading political advertising to remain on the platform, “leaves the door open for the platform to be used by other politicians to interfere with voting.”

The report calls CEO Mark Zuckerberg and global affairs officer Nick Clegg the key decisionmakers at the company.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg posted a blog to thank Murphy and Cacace for their leadership and work on the audit, which turned out to be a “deep analysis of how we can strengthen and advance civil rights at every level of our company — but it is the beginning of the journey, not the end.”

She said it's increasingly clear that Facebook has a long way to go. “As hard as it has been to have our shortcomings exposed by experts, it has undoubtedly been a really important process for our company. We would urge companies in our industry and beyond to do the same,” she wrote.

Though Facebook has made significant progress in a number of critical areas, “the auditors have been extremely candid with their feedback, urging us to go further in a range of areas,” wrote Sandberg.

She said while Facebook cannot make all of the changes recommended by the auditors, it will put more of their proposals into practice.

“We have started to do that — and we are making new commitments today. But first, it is important to acknowledge where the auditors believe we are still falling short,” wrote Sandberg.