Facebook announced when it released the second update to its civil rights exam last July that it would create a senior civil rights role at the company, and that role was filled on Monday, as are nationally known civil rights attorney and attorney Roy L. Austin Jr. will be his first Vice President for Civil Rights on January 19th.
Austin will be based in Washington, DC and will initially focus on building a “small team” focused on controlling and accountable for the company’s civil rights.
He joins the Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis law firm’s social network, where he spent four years as a criminal defense and civil rights partner.
Austin previously served as Assistant Assistant to the President of the Office for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunities for the White House Home Affairs Council from 2014 to 2017. There he wrote a report on big data and civil rights and worked with then-President Barack Obama. The 21st Century Policing Task Force helped develop the Police Data Initiative and was a member of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.
He also served in the Justice Department for five years, most of the time serving as the Assistant Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division. In total, Austin has over 25 years of experience as a lawyer and civil rights attorney.
Facebook has announced that it will pursue Austin’s hiring process by bringing more in-house civil rights expertise to work with its core teams. The company works with civil rights law firm Relman Colfax to develop training for employees involved in the early stages of policy and product development.
Attorney General Jennifer Newstead said in a statement, “I’m very excited to welcome Roy to Facebook as our Vice President for Civil Rights. Roy has proven throughout his career that he is a passionate and principled advocate of civil rights, whether in the courtroom or the White House. I know he will bring the same wisdom, integrity and devotion to Facebook. It is hard to imagine that someone is better qualified to strengthen and promote civil rights on our platform and in our company. “
Civil Rights and Freedoms Attorney Laura Murphy, who led the company through the civil rights audit, added, “The appointment of a civil rights vp is a historic, positive and timely milestone in the evolution of Facebook. Facebook will now take a systematic and structural approach to addressing the many civil rights concerns that I raised during the Facebook Civil Rights Review. Roy Austin is a good choice for this role. I worked with him extensively during his tenure in the White House. I urge Facebook to give it the leeway and resources to address the audit recommendations and any other civil rights issues that may arise. “
And Austin said, “I am very excited to be joining Facebook at this moment as there is a national and global awakening related to civil rights. Technology plays a role in almost every part of our lives, and it is important that it be used to overcome, rather than exacerbate, the historical discrimination and hatred that so many under-represented groups face. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to join a company whose products are used by so many and which encroach on the civil rights and freedoms of billions of people in order to find a better way forward. “