Facebook and Instagram came under fire for not doing enough to fight hate speech.

Angela Lang / CNET

Facebook announced on Tuesday that the main social network and Instagram, its photo service, will step up efforts to address the challenges faced by minorities on their platforms and investigate possible racist prejudices in their algorithms and products.

The move comes as Facebook puts more pressure on the police to fight hateful content on its website after the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis. Civil rights groups have criticized the company for not doing enough to address hate speech and prompted major advertisers to stop spending on Facebook this month as part of a campaign.

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Black users and other minorities have also complained that their contributions to racism are mistakenly labeled as hate speech by the company. Mark Luckie, a former Facebook manager who is black, has also accused the social network of "failing" his black users and found that there is a theory that their content is being pulled down more than other groups.

"The Racial Justice movement is a moment of real importance to our company," said Vishal Shah, vice president of product at Instagram, in a statement. "Any bias in our systems and policies goes against a platform where everyone can express themselves."

Instagram is putting together a new team that focuses on "ensuring fairness and fair product development". Instagram employees, referred to as the equity team, will also support functions that promote equality, such as: B. Tools that help different companies. The team will work with Facebook's Responsible AI team. Facebook is also building an inclusivity product team and has recently launched a council that will help take into account the views of black users and other minorities when developing new products.

The Wall Street Journal, which previously reported on the creation of the new team, said that studying racist bias had been a "controversial" topic on Facebook and Instagram in the past. An internal study found that users whose activity indicated that they were black were 50% more likely to deactivate their accounts than other users if Instagram made changes to the accounts that were deleted or blocked. Instagram addressed these concerns, but prohibited further investigation on the subject.

Facebook told the journal that it was concerned that the metric used to determine a user's race was not entirely reliable. As part of the study, employees examined the "multicultural affinity" of users that advertisers have suggested in the past whether a user is interested in ads that target African-American, Hispanic, or Asian-American communities. The social network assigned a "multicultural affinity" to the users due to their activities on the platform. Facebook doesn't ask users to indicate their race, so using this metric could suggest to the social network who is a minority.

The company has disabled the ability for advertisers to target users through "multicultural affinity" in 2017 due to concerns that advertisers could use the tool to exclude people of certain races.

Facebook said its work to investigate and combat potential racial prejudice is still in its infancy, but plans to release more information in the coming months.


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