Profile Aclu Murphy Facebooknixbloomberg: Facebook’s public relations nightmare has come to an end with the announcement that it will rely on academic and legal experts for its new content moderation team rather than relying on its own employees. The company’s choice is a significant change of course after Zuckerberg repeatedly denied there was a problem. Critics have long pointed out Facebook is bad at moderating harmful content, like hate speech or hoaxes, which led to nastiness such as stalking or worse. Facebook’s troubles took off in Sri Lanka where the company’s moderators blamed bad actors for manipulating the platform and leading to the deaths of people in that country.
The company has faced increased scrutiny and calls for reform, which come at the same time as Facebook has faced a series of civil rights legal challenges over its use of data and political advertising, particularly regarding housing ads. The ACLU recently filed a housing discrimination complaint against Facebook with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and California’s Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH).
The ACLU’s new content moderation team includes former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who left his post to lead the new team, and Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the ACLU’s speech, privacy, and technology project. In an interview with TechCrunch, Zuck said he decided to make a change after reading a Forbes article that quoted an anonymous Facebook employee saying employees “dine out on the problems.” “It’s hard not to react to that,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with TechCrunch’s Mike Isaac.
Laura Murphy, who helped found the national office of the ACLU in 1986 and co-founded the D.C. office of the ACLU, spent more than 20 years in government and for-profit board positions until 2010 when she joined Facebook as its global head of advertising and local business integrity. She is credited with running a civil rights audit at Facebook shortly after she was hired. Murphy left Facebook in 2015 and joined Microsoft’s Bing team to work on diversity initiatives. Murphy is also the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Legislative Office in Washington, D.C., and served as associate director of the ACLU Fund of Maryland.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Murphy said there was a disproportionate number of conservative employees at Facebook and that she was shocked by what she found in her civil rights audit, which included “easily accessible hate speech.” After discovering this information, Murphy sent an email to her own staff saying there are no racists at Facebook. Murphy said her audit led to the company doing a bigger audit in the following months. Facebook has since censored controversial material like a famous Vietnam War photo and deleted a post by Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King on the grounds that it violated rules prohibiting “calls for exclusion.”
Murphy said Facebook is leaning more toward law enforcement, which was an area of weakness at Facebook, as it increased censorship and compliance work. Murphy said she did not agree with Zuckerberg’s decision to leave content moderation to third parties. “I think of it as their responsibility and not a power I would want to delegate,” Murphy said. “Facebook is dealing with this in the same way they deal with advertising, they should be responsible for their platform.”
Facebook has faced two major challenges in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In the former country, Facebook has faced criticism for not removing inappropriate content but also for deleting some content that local regulators deemed offensive. In Myanmar, the company was criticized when some users falsely claimed Muslims were attacking Buddhists and Hindus.