Facebook Hires Obama Civil Rights Lawyer

Published On January 13, 2021 | By Tom Huskerson | News and Analysis

Facebook announced the hiring of civil rights lawyer Roy Austin Jr. as the first vice president of civil rights. The company is working to to improve its handling of racial insensitivity, discrimination and extremism issues.

Austin is a veteran civil rights attorney and served in the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity. At Facebook Austin will set up Facebook’s civil rights organization and become a deputy general counsel. Facebook has not specified the full scope or goals of the organization.

Austin’s hiring comes as the company faces deeper scrutiny of its handling of racism, violent rhetoric and misinformation in the wake of last week’s pro-Trump riots on Capitol Hill. Acting to quell the potential for more violence Facebook and Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump after he failed to condemn the mob attacking the Capitol.

The pressure on Facebook has been building for months. Last summer the company was hit with a major advertising boycott organized by civil rights groups in response to what they described as Facebook’s “long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform.” Around the same time, Facebook pledged to hire a civil rights leader and to place employees with civil rights expertise in core teams.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote that while the company had made progress on those fronts, it still had “a long way to go” after failing to more effectively control the problem. The authors of Facebook’s audit determined that Facebook’s leaders had made decisions “with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights.” The audit warned that the platform could become an echo chamber for extremism.

Austin issued a statement saying; “I am excited to join Facebook at this moment when there is a national and global awakening happening around civil rights.”

Austin’s previous work in the Obama administration including authoring a report on big data and civil rights. He went on to say, “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.”

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. Tom attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has also written both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and EbonyCandle.com. Tom is not the chief editor for the OnTechStreet. com. A news and information blog that focuses on tech news for African-Americans. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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