Laura Murphy is going to be busy as her high-profile racial audit at Facebook, as reported by Nix on Bloomberg, is catching a lot of media attention. [Profile Laura Murphy FacebookNixBloomberg]
Previously, she ran the D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union. There, she made a lot of connections and professional relationships that will now help her address such issues.
“You go into these diverse offices, and Laura was greeted like a friend, a colleague, and partner, whether it was Maxine Waters or Rand Paul or Mitch McConnell…That’s her secret power,” stated Anthony Romero, ACLU.
Laura’s career has been a decorated one of course. Murphy began her career working for former Democratic Representatives Parren Mitchell and Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, before joining the ACLU.
In the past, she spent her time making public policies and being involved in politics, but recently, she’s made a shift to the corporate world as she resolves and addresses issues related to racism and social justice. Thanks to her past connections and professional experience, she has come out to be a star in the world of social justice, especially in corporate civil rights audits.
Now, she has started taking on big roles, such as Facebook which is her highest-profile client yet. Her works and approach are being tested at Facebook after she spend two years performing racial audits at the social media company. In summary, Facebook as well as its critics have acknowledged her groundbreaking work, which is going to make her busier in the upcoming years.
Even though her work was praised on Facebook, Color of Change (a civil rights group) started a petition and argued that Facebook is still not listening and not adopting some of the proven and effective recommendations made by Laura Murphy. The purpose of this petition was to force Facebook to follow the guidelines and suggestions, but it seems like Facebook is not going to change its operations.
Some people don’t think it’s useful to investigate if a company is fair to everyone, no matter their race. But people who want to make things better are pushing for more investigations. Google and Amazon have been asked to check if they’re treating people of different races fairly.
Some groups that care about workers and retirement funds want at least eight financial companies to do the same. Murphy is also writing a guide that will explain how to do these checks well, and it will come out later this year.
JPMorgan said that racial audits and just bureaucracy and nonsense, a meeting with Congress in May. Other banks believe that these audits are not necessary because they already donate money to organizations that focus on helping vulnerable communities and make their anti-discrimination policies public, according to Tejal Patel, SOC’s director of corporate governance.
Murphy’s credibility comes from her lifelong dedication to civil rights issues, which was inspired by her activist family in Baltimore. Her father, William, founded a law firm that focused on high-profile cases involving racial equality, and her mother, Madeline, was a well-known city activist and politician.
Laura Murphy’s Work, Explained
In 2016, Murphy began her career in racial audit as a close friend, Vanita Gupta, told her that Airbnb was racially profiling people as per a Harvard Study. According to that study, if the hosts found that the guests’ names are somewhat black-sounding, they were less likely to accept them. Murphy did agree to work with the company, starting her racial audit career in the corporate world.
To kill any opportunity for racial discrimination, civil rights activists demanded Airbnb remove the pictures of the customers requesting rooms. The idea was praised and Murphy officially presented the argument, asking Airbnb to remove the photos. At first, Airbnb refused but they had to do it eventually.
“I don’t think the civil rights groups got everything that they asked for initially, but I think that they got a lot over time,” said Murphy.
Murphy at Facebook
Two years after the Color of Change group asked Facebook to conduct a civil rights audit, Facebook hired Murphy to work on content moderation issues. At first, Facebook didn’t give Murphy’s work much attention and didn’t agree to make the audit results public.
But later, they put Sheryl Sandberg in charge and agreed to release the results publicly. This decision was made after it was reported that Facebook had hired a public-relations firm that wanted to link Color of Change to a wealthy financier named George Soros.
Amid the disinformation allegations on Facebook, Murphy was handling disputes between Facebook and its critics. In the meanwhile, in 2019, CEO Mark Zuckerburg had to make a public appearance and address free speech rights, but the misinformation conflicts were eating the social media platform.
What’s even worse is that before this speech, the news was leaked that Zuckerburg was discussing their issues in private with some bodies, which the civil rights activists didn’t like. After the social justice heat in the public, Murphy asked the Facebook executives to sit and listen to what she had to say.
Thus, a dinner was held at Mark Zuckerburg’s home in Palo Alto on the 4th of November, 2019, where some of the executives, including Murphy and Zuckerburg, participated. At the dinner, Murphy warned the Facebook leader not to take these civil rights activists lightly, instead, she urged that the issue has now become more serious than ever.
What’s concerning for Murphy about the activists was that they make up millions of users on Facebook, and can cause trouble. To address this issue, she asked everyone at the table to make plans and come up with practical strategies to handle such issues so that both parties are satisfied.
Some people visited Facebook’s offices and talked to them about posts that said if people did the census, their information would be given to immigration officials. The boss of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, disagreed with them and said what if an immigrant was worried about telling people their citizenship status by doing the census?
The people who visited didn’t think his idea was important. Later, Facebook stopped people from making posts that said doing the census could get you in trouble with the police.
“We were fine with her having a full and honest voice,” said the higher management of Facebook.
The critics did try to cripple Facebook and their policies but thanks to Mark Zuckerburg’s intellect and Laura Murphy’s efforts, both parties came on somewhat the same page eventually.
Laura Murphy Involved in Trump Ban on Facebook?
In 2020, the US president used social media platforms including Facebook to argue that the elections were rigged and other allegations against the US elections and officials. At that time, Laura Murphy was handling operations at Facebook.
As Facebook has strict policies and Trump was somehow going against these policies by misinterpreting the “methods for voting or voter registration,” Facebook stayed quiet and then disagreed.
Laura Murphy, in the meanwhile, was middle of her racial profile audit and found Trump guilty of going against Facebook’s policies. She first called out the president’s actions and the words he spread over Facebook and released her audit in July 2020.
Here comes January 2021 and Facebook does ban US President Donald Trump after the US Capitol chaos left five dead. They also hired a former US Department of Justice official, Roy Justin, to create a team to manage civil rights policies.
“There were a bunch of things that Laura believed [in] that we were able to do and able to do quickly… There were some things that we were able to do more slowly. There were some things that didn’t work, but we were fine with her having a full and honest voice,” stated Sandberg.
“The value of the audit is a memorialization of what the challenges were at the moment… That’s helpful as we figure out, What are the types of things we want to pressure Facebook on? What are the types of things we want to remedy through legislation?,” stated co-CEO of the media reform group Free Press, Jessica González.
Laura Murphy fights against discrimination based on race. She worked with Airbnb to stop racial profiling by removing customer photos, and later with Facebook on content moderation. She comes from a family that values civil rights and is inspired to make a positive impact.
Although some criticize companies for not doing enough to implement her recommendations, Murphy’s work remains important. She is currently writing a guide to help others conduct effective racial audits.
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