*Back in January, Facebook announced that it tapped nationally renowned civil rights attorney and advocate Roy L. Austin Jr. as its first-ever vice president of civil rights.
The company said in a press release that its newly established civil rights organization was “an incredibly important role for Facebook and for the tech industry.”
“I am excited to join Facebook at this moment when there is a national and global awakening happening around civil rights,” Austin said in a statement at the time. “Technology plays a role in nearly every part of our lives, and it’s important that it be used to overcome the historic discrimination and hate which so many underrepresented groups have faced, rather than to exacerbate it.”
Austin has over 25 years of experience as a civil rights lawyer and worked as part of the Obama administration in the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity, per Facebook’s press release, as reported by Business Insider.
Welcome Roy L. Austin, Jr. to the Facebook Family!
Jennifer Newstead, Facebook General Counsel said:
— Jack (@jfgallag) February 3, 2021
Per Axios, Austin’s initial team of nine was tasked with tackling issues related to voting rights, hate speech, and “ensuring new products don’t have discriminatory impact,” the outlet writes.
“At first I wasn’t interested,” Austin told Axios. “But what hit me was a company that touches 3.5 billion people, and I felt like if I could turn the knob just a little bit toward justice with a company with that kind of reach, that that would really be an amazing opportunity.”
Per the Axios report, Austin’s team was responsible for getting Facebook to apologize publicly after its algorithms associated a video depicting Black men with the tag “primates.”
“We’re living in a time and a society where there are people who propagate obvious falsehoods,” Austin said. “My position is, when those falsehoods injure historically and systemically marginalized communities, that they don’t belong.”
When it comes to COVID-19, he told Axios, “Again, I want the truth. Vaccines work. Vaccines save lives. That is the truth. In my mind there is not a second thing to that.”
“I hope that the leaders at Facebook realize that the civil rights team needs to grow exponentially,” Laura Murphy, who oversaw Facebook’s civil rights audit, told the Washington Post.