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What ever happened to the conservative audit of Facebook?

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On Monday, a left-leaning civil rights audit of Facebook urged the company to expand its ban on white
 
July 2 · Issue #351 · View online
The Interface
On Monday, a left-leaning civil rights audit of Facebook urged the company to expand its ban on white nationalist content by purging additional words, phrases, and symbols from the social network. The audit had been announced a year ago to address allegations of bias on Facebook, and the company has now offered two updates about the steps it has taken in response to auditors’ findings.
But the civil rights audit represents only half of Facebook’s efforts to seek independent review of its potential biases, and the other one has largely gone missing. On May 1st, 2018 — the same day it announced the civil rights audit — the company said it had formed a “conservative advising partnership.” As Sara Fischer reported at the time in Axios:
The conservative bias advising partnership will be led by former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, along with his team at Covington and Burling, a Washington law firm.
Kyl will examine concerns about alleged liberal bias on Facebook, internally and on its services. They will get feedback directly from conservative groups and advise Facebook on the best way to work with these groups moving forward.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, will convene meetings on these issues with Facebook executives. 
Then Kyl was appointed to serve out the remainder of John McCain’s term, and work slowed. His committee has released no public report, and made no recommendations. Here’s what a Facebook spokesman told me about the Kyl project today:
Senator Kyl and his team have talked to over 130 of the nation’s leading conservative groups and individuals to see how our policies are affecting them and their communities. The team is now meeting with people from Facebook’s policy and product teams to gain a better understanding of Facebook’s internal and external policies as well as our products and services.
It’s unclear when this team’s report might be made available. But even if it largely exonerated Facebook, would anyone in its intended audience believe it?
Before you answer, read Tony Romm in Tuesday’s Washington Post, reporting on an upcoming “social media summit” at the White House:
The president’s top aides so far have said their scheduled, July 11 event aims to assemble “digital leaders” to discuss the “opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.” In doing so, though, the White House quietly has invited tech’s top conservative critics in politics and media, The Post has learned, some of whom say the solution to Silicon Valley’s perceived political bias is to break up the tech giants or more aggressively regulate them. […]
Trump repeated his criticisms about social media companies in an interview on Fox News that aired Monday, telling host Tucker Carlson that Facebook, Google and Twitter were “against me” before suggesting the administration might “take action” against them. 
There continues to be no evidence that social networks are routinely suppressing mainstream conservative viewpoints. (If anything, they’re promoting more conservative viewpoints — along with more liberal ones.) But the idea that social networks lean liberal has proven to be wildly popular with conservative audiences, leading to a series of theatrical Congressional hearings in which lawmakers wring their hands about the liberal voting records of Silicon Valley tech workers, and raise the specter that mystery algorithms are quashing free speech.
This gets easier to do as the definition of “bias” expands to include any negative outcome that anyone ever experiences on social media, as I wrote here in May. And the Trump administration has worked to accelerate this process, most notably with its since-discontinued effort to collect people’s complaints about social networks via an online form.
Conservative lawmakers appear to be so invested in the idea that they’re being discriminated against that it’s hard to imagine what Jon Kyl could tell them that would change their minds. If anything, extending the ban on white nationalist terminology will only reinforce the idea that Facebook is suppressing certain forms of political speech. (Because … it actually is, in this narrow instance.)
Perhaps the conservative advisory group will emerge with some smart compromises that will reassure constituents that Facebook engineers aren’t working to tip the scales of political discourse. But recent history suggests that popular falsehoods about Facebook are nearly impossible to kill. “Facebook sells your data” is one; “Facebook is listening to your phone” is another. “Facebook censors conservatives” seems likely to join that depressing canon of myths, and it’s not clear what anyone can do about it.

Pushback
In yesterday’s edition I argued that Facebook’s move to test a dedicated hate speech queue for content reviewers in the hopes that it led to better moderation outcomes could create new mental health burdens for moderators.
A Facebook spokesperson offered a few notes:
  • Moderators volunteered for the test, and can opt out.
  • Most of the volunteers have chosen not to opt out.
  • Moderators get better access to Facebook’s hate policy experts, which can help them improve their scores.
  • They also get continuous training and attend Q&A sessions about grey areas in the policy.
“Content moderation is still a fairly new field and no one has it entirely figured out,” the company told me. “We will continue to work hard, as we have been doing, to ensure that we are taking care of those that choose to work in the field of content review.”
Democracy
House lawmakers officially ask Facebook to put Libra cryptocurrency project on hold
As Facebook cracks down on fake political ads, businesses are getting caught in the crossfire
More than 200 companies sign brief calling on SCOTUS to recognize LGBTQ rights
Google’s Jigsaw Was Supposed to Save the Internet. Behind the Scenes, It Became a Toxic Mess
Germany fines Facebook for under-reporting complaints
Elsewhere
They turn to Facebook and YouTube to find a cure for cancer — and get sucked into a world of bogus medicine
Facebook, YouTube Overrun With Bogus Cancer-Treatment Claims
Addressing Sensational Health Claims | Facebook Newsroom
Facebook Is Censoring Harm Reduction Posts That Could Save Opioid Users' Lives
Adidas' social media campaign backfires, sending out anti-Semitic tweets
Dr Disrespect’s short ban divides Twitch community
Why AI can’t fix content moderation
Launches
Instagram’s new Stories sticker lets you ask your followers to join a new group chat
Takes
No, Russian Twitter trolls didn’t demonstrably push Trump’s poll numbers higher
America needs to see Amazon’s tax returns
And finally ...
Drew Gooden’s miniature play about trying to sell a lamp on Facebook Marketplace will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to sell anything online.
Drew Gooden
facebook marketplace https://t.co/9Xu82iISjV
3:46 PM - 1 Jul 2019
Talk to me
Send tips, comments, questions, and your best one-liners about the social media summit: casey@theverge.com.
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