Facebook Folds: Will Now Police Speech After Advertiser Exodus

After holding itself out as a bastion of (semi) free speech, or at least the most hands-off in Silicon Valley, Facebook reversed course on Tuesday amid an advertiser exodus thanks to the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

In addition to policing whatever their definition of 'hate speech' from now on and vowing to 'get better at removing hateful content,' CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg will be meeting with leaders from groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation league, which organized Stop Hate for Profit.

Launched by civil rights groups three weeks ago, the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which has a broader aim of curbing hate speech, white supremacy and misinformation on Facebook, has struck a national nerve. Hundreds of companies including top brands Unilever, Ford and Pfizer have pulled advertising from Facebook in July. -USA Today

"Being a platform where everyone can make their voice heard is core to our mission, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for people to spread hate. It’s not," Sandberg wrote in a Tuesday blog post, adding that on Wednesday Facebook would release its long-anticipated civil rights audit which began two years ago.

Sandberg said that while the audit had a "profound effect" on the company's culture, they won't be "making every change they call for," but will "put more of their proposals into practice soon."

Facebook has been pressured in recent weeks to better find and remove posts that include hate speech or lead to voter suppression. The Menlo Park, California-based company has responded to angry advertisers with emails and phone calls to better explain its policies and how it has used software systems to act more swiftly. -Bloomberg

Sandberg claims that the changes are "not for financial reasons or advertiser pressure, but because it is the right thing to do," adding "We are never going to be perfect, but we care about this deeply. We will continue to listen and learn and work in the weeks, months and years ahead."

According to USA Today, Stop Hate for Profit is also demanding that Facebook hire a 'civil rights executive,' submit to independent audits of hate speech and misinformation, remove all hate speech and hate groups, and provide refunds to advertisers whose ads appear next to hate speech.

"Now is not the time for simply statements of support that don’t come with actual real structural change," said Color of Change president Rashad Robinson. "Now is the time to actually change rules and change behaviors."

Shares of Facebook dipped and quickly recovered on the news: