Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Agree To Hate Speech Audits

Social networking giants agree to outside audit of efforts to deal with hate speech, after advertising boycott by major firms

Major social networking platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have agreed with large advertisers to outside audits of their efforts to tackle hate speech.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) announced the agreement on Wednesday that will see the platforms adopt common definitions and reporting standards for harmful content.

It comes after a number of civil rights groups that organised an advertising boycott of Facebook in July, due to concerns at hate speech of the platform.


Audit agreement

Now according to the announcement, it seems that “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in collaboration with marketers and agencies through the Global Alliance for Responsible Media have agreed to adopt a common set of definitions for hate speech and other harmful content and to collaborate with a view to monitoring industry efforts to improve in this critical area.”

The agreement comes after “15 months of intensive talks within GARM between major advertisers, agencies and key global platforms.”

So what exactly has been agreed?

Well four areas for action have been identified, and these are as follows: the adoption of GARM common definitions for harmful content; the development of GARM reporting standards on harmful content; a commitment to have independent oversight on brand safety operations, integrations and reporting; and a commitment to develop and deploy tools to better manage advertising adjacency.

“The issue of harmful content online has become one of the challenges of our generation,” said Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO. “As funders of the online ecosystem, advertisers have a critical role to play in driving positive change and we are pleased to have reached agreement with the platforms on an action plan and timeline in order to make the necessary improvements.”

“A safer social media environment will provide huge benefits not just for advertisers and society but also to the platforms themselves,” said Loerke.

WFA believes that the standards should be applicable to all media given the increased polarisation of content regardless of channel, not just the digital platforms.

It believes that independent audits will drive better implementation and build trust.

The development was welcomed by the social networking giants.

“This uncommon collaboration, brought together by the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online,” said Carolyn Everson, VP global marketing solutions at Facebook.

This sentiment was echoed by Twitter.

“We continue to be committed to aligning on industry standards and frameworks that will help address harmful content and create a brand-safe environment for advertisers,” said Sarah Personette, VP, global client solutions at Twitter. “We are proud of the progress we have made in partnership with GARM and the other members to implement changes we believe will help create a place for healthy public conversation.”

Advertising boycott

Facebook had been hit by advertising boycott in the summer, organised by a number of civil rights groups.

Those groups were unhappy that Facebook largely took a dismissive attitude to the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ advertising boycott of the platform in July, when the firm said “advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.’

Indeed, the organisers were further outraged in a meeting senior executives from the platform, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, when Facebook refused any concessions to the 11 demands from the organisers.

Their demands included allowing people who experience severe harassment to speak with a Facebook employee and giving refunds to brands whose ads show up next to offensive content that is later removed.

Facebook had already indicated it would submit to an audit of its hate speech controls.

After July’s Facebook ad boycott, the organisers decided to once again used their ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ to persuade celebrities to boycott Instagram for a day, to protest Facebook’s handling of hate on its platform and to call on the company to stop allowing politicians to lie in political ads.

The organisers pointed to Facebook’s failure to shut down the page of a Kenosha militia group as one reason to protest.