Google civil rights audit proposes better tackling of hate speech, misinformation

Google disclosed the details of an audit examining how its policies and services impacted civil rights, and recommended that it take steps to tackle misinformation and hate speech

March 04, 2023 09:54 am | Updated 12:53 pm IST - WASHINGTON

File photo of the Google logo against a cracked glass screen

File photo of the Google logo against a cracked glass screen | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Google on Friday released an audit that examined how its policies and services impacted civil rights, and recommended the tech giant take steps to tackle misinformation and hate speech, following pressure by advocates to hold such a review.

The disclosure by the company came after the Washington Post reported earlier on Friday that Google tapped an outside law firm to conduct a civil rights review. Law firm WilmerHale was tasked with carrying out the assessment.

The review released Friday recommended that Google, especially YouTube, review its hate speech and harassment policies to address issues such as intentional misgendering or deadnaming of individuals and "adapt to changing norms regarding protected groups."

The review also said that to better tackle misinformation related to elections, the company should ensure that employees with language fluency are more involved in enforcement actions instead of relying on translation.

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Google should also consider developing additional metrics to track the speed and efficiency with which it removes ads on election-related misinformation, including imposing higher penalties and permanent suspension in the case of repeat offenders, the review added.

"We are committed to constantly improving, and that includes efforts to strengthen our approaches to civil and human rights. To help guide us, we conducted and released a voluntary civil rights audit of our policies, practices, and products," Chanelle Hardy, head of civil rights at Google, said in an emailed statement on Friday.

In recent years, human rights groups like Amnesty International have accused big tech firms such as Google of not prioritising rights issues.

"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," Amnesty International had said in a 2019 report on Google and Facebook.

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