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Facebook accused of 'racially biased censorship' by civil rights coalition

Facebook has once again found itself in the midst of a censorship row with a coalition of over 70 human rights organisations and civil rights activists accusing the company of having a "racially bias" moderation system.

An open letter signed by groups including Color of Change, the Center for Media Justice, Black Lives Matter and more was sent to Facebook yesterday (18 January).

It cited several specific examples outlining concerns around the social network's "consistent and disproportionate censorship of Facebook users of color or Facebook’s interactions with law enforcement."

"Activists in the Movement for Black Lives have routinely reported the takedown of images discussing racism and during protests, with the justification that it violates Facebook’s Community Standards," alleges the coalition, adding: "At the same time, harassment and threats directed at activists based on their race, religion, and sexual orientation is thriving on Facebook."

The letter is the second of its kind addressed to Facebook’s vice-president of global public policy, Joel Kaplan and marked for the attention of boss Mark Zuckerberg. It follows on from a back and forth conversation last year during which Kaplan issued a response from Facebook which activists believe did not address civil rights campaigners’ concerns.

Now the group is urging Facebook to reconsider its recommendations to make Facebook's censorship policies and called for an in-person meeting to make them "clear and accessible" to the public and ensure appeals around censored content are more transparent.

Facebook told the Guardian: "We value input from our community. We have received the letter and are reviewing it."

Facebook's problematic relationship with censorship had come under the spotlight over the past 12 months, and earlier in January it faced mounting pressure to impose stricter measures on its Live video feature after allowing a disturbing video depicting torture to resurface on the site.

Several high-profile bans and subsequent u-turns on images and videos including awareness campaigns from breast cancer charities, a "sexually explicit" statue of Neptune, the iconic 'Napalm Girl image and footage depicting the police shooting of Philando Castile have provoked strong reaction from users.

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