Facebook releases audit on bias claims

Facebook on Tuesday released the findings of a long-awaited audit exploring conservatives’ suspicions that the platform is biased against right-wing voices, with the company vowing to make changes to advertising policies that affected anti-abortion rights messaging.

The study, conducted by lobbyist and former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), surveyed more than a hundred conservative figures and organizations about their views on Facebook. It found that many are concerned about the social network’s efforts to crack down on hate speech and worry that its content policies are being applied unevenly.

The takeaway: Kyl’s report does not conclude one way or the other whether Facebook is censoring conservatives, as President Trump and other GOP leaders allege and as Facebook has adamantly denied.

Criticism rolls in: The allegations, which are unproven, have prompted some eye-rolling from Democrats and other tech critics.

Rashad Robinson, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change, said on Tuesday that if Facebook were to change its platform to accommodate the conservative suspicions, it would hamper the site’s ability to crack down on hate speech and other problems.

“Claims of anti-conservative bias are simply an attempt to distract users and the media from the conservative movement’s attacks against Black communities and other marginalized groups,” Robinson said in a statement.

And Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), an outspoken Facebook critic, questioned the usefulness of the report.

What Facebook’s doing: The report touts some of the changes Facebook has made in an attempt to increase transparency and improve oversight of its content moderation.

“We know we need to take these concerns seriously and adjust course if our policies are in fact limiting expression in an unintended way,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post.

In one change announced Tuesday, Facebook said it would relax a ban on advertisements featuring images of medical patients with tubes attached to them, a policy that conservatives said was being used disproportionately to target messages against abortion.