The parent company of Facebook and Instagram is looking into whether its platforms treat users differently based on race, after years of criticism particularly from Black users and its own employees about racial bias.
“There are a lot of members of systemically and historically marginalized communities who feel that their experience on our platforms is different,” said Roy Austin Jr., vice president of civil rights at Meta, formerly known as Facebook.
That includes Black users who say their posts about racism have been taken down for violating the company’s hate speech rules. Facebook also apologized in September after a flaw in its artificial intelligence software led to a video of Black men being labeled as “primates.”
Meta is starting by tracking the race of its platforms’ users, which Austin described as “a huge step to moving from the anecdotal to the data driven.” He said the work would allow the company to understand how people’s experiences on Facebook may differ by race, a first step toward addressing any problems.
“Until we do this kind of data collection, we can’t actually answer that question one way or another,” he said.
The challenge for the company is collecting demographic information in a way that doesn’t violate users’ privacy. Meta released a paper detailing how it plans to combine estimates based on people’s ZIP codes and last names with surveys where people identify their race or ethnicity.
The announcement came as Meta gave an update on its response to a civil rights audit the company commissioned following widespread accusations that its products promote discrimination.
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SOURCE: NPR, Shannon Bond