Facebook Exec Promises To Crack Down On ‘Falsehoods’ Targeting ‘Marginalized Communities’

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FILE PHOTO: Woman holds smartphone with Facebook logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture

Ailan Evans on January 28, 2022

Roy Austin, vice president of civil rights for Facebook parent company Meta, pledged to crack down on “misinformation” and alleged discriminatory conduct propagated by the social media platform.

“We’re living in a time and a society where there are people who propagate obvious falsehoods,” Austin said in an interview with Axios. “My position is, when those falsehoods injure historically and systemically marginalized communities, that they don’t belong.”

Austin, who was hired in January 2021, is an attorney who previously served in the Obama administration as deputy assistant to the president for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. The Facebook executive said the prospect of affecting change through Facebook’s massive reach and influence convinced him to join the company.

“At first I wasn’t interested,” Austin told Axios. “But what hit me was a company that touches 3.5 billion people, and I felt like if I could turn the knob just a little bit toward justice with a company with that kind of reach, that that would really be an amazing opportunity.”

Austin’s team is also working on implementing a number of features recommended by a “civil rights audit” commissioned in 2020. These include some features designed to measure and compare the experience of users belonging to different races and others considering the “civil rights implications” of design choices, according to Axios.

Austin also said he would take a hardline approach to content moderation, including on matters related to health misinformation and COVID-19.

“Again, I want the truth. Vaccines work. Vaccines save lives. That is the truth. In my mind there is not a second thing to that,” Austin told Axios.

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