Google has released the findings of a voluntary civil rights audit carried out by law firm WilmerHale, which has recommended measures to tackle hate speech and misinformation on the company’s platforms, especially YouTube.
The report urged Google to review its harassment and hate speech policies, to adapt to changing norms regarding protected groups, and to develop additional metrics to track the efficiency and speed with which it removes ads on election-related misinformation. It also suggested higher penalties and permanent suspension in the case of repeat offenders.
The audit was initiated following pressure from human rights groups, who have accused tech giants such as Google of failing to prioritize issues related to civil rights. Amnesty International’s 2019 report on Google and Facebook said that the companies’ “surveillance-based business model is inherently incompatible with the right to privacy and poses a threat to a range of other rights including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination.”
Chanelle Hardy, head of civil rights at Google, said that the company is “committed to constantly improving” and that the audit would guide its efforts to strengthen its approach to civil and human rights. The report also recommended that Google ensure employees with language fluency are more involved in enforcement actions related to election misinformation, rather than relying solely on translation.
As tech firms continue to face criticism over their handling of hate speech and misinformation, the findings of Google’s civil rights audit may lead to significant changes in the way users interact with its services.