The authors of Facebook’s recent Civil Rights Audit seem to believe hate speech and voter suppression are major problems on the platform. That may be true, but neither the 89-page report nor the 2018 interim report even try to measure the existence or magnitude of the problem. Instead, the report is mainly an audit of Facebook’s progress — or, more accurately, lack of progress, in the auditors’ view — in implementing policies promoted by the civil rights community. The issues raised by the civil rights groups identified in the report are serious, but the report doesn’t tell us much about what is actually happening on the platform or the effectiveness of measures Facebook has already implemented.
Of all the questions related to hate speech and voter suppression on the Facebook platform, the auditors chose to highlight Facebook’s approach to three of President Trump’s recent posts. Two of those posts concerned mail-in voting, which the auditors considered factually inaccurate and examples of voter suppression. The third, in connection with recent demonstrations, was cited as an example of hate speech that incites violence.