Facebook has come under fire lately for accusations of racial and politicalbias, and it’s determined to address both of those claims head-on. The social media giant has committed to independent investigations that will scrutinize both its civil rights record and its alleged anti-conservative political bias. Civil liberties leader Laura Murphy will lead a civil rights audit with input from groups like the Leadership Conference. Meanwhile, former Republican Senator Jon Kyl will run a conservative bias advisory partnership that will also see Facebook executives meeting with the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation.
It’s no secret why Facebook has agreed to the investigations: it’s facing mounting pressure in both cases. The company is facing a lawsuit over discriminatory housing ads, and Republicans have routinely accused Facebook of intentionally downplaying conservative content. Whether or not Facebook actually needs to change its practices, the scrutiny might head off further legal and political action in addition to quieting some of its critics.
There are still some unanswered questions: how extensive will these inspections be? And if there is evidence of bias, how will Facebook address it beyond existing measures like publishing its community standards? There’s a good chance this won’t satisfy everyone, for that matter. All the same, this shows that Facebook is at least taking allegations seriously.