Roy L. Austin Jr. will be based in Washington, D.C.

By David Cohen

41 mins ago

Facebook said when it released the second update to its civil rights audit last July that it would create a senior civil rights role at the company, and that role was filled Monday, as nationally renowned civil rights attorney and advocate Roy L. Austin Jr. will become its first-ever vice president of civil rights Jan. 19.

Austin will be based in Washington, D.C., and his initial focus will be on building out a “small team” to concentrate on the company’s civil rights oversight and accountability.

He joins the social network from law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, where he spent four years as a partner specializing in criminal defense and civil rights law.

Prior to that, Austin was deputy assistant to the president for the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity from 2014 through 2017, where he authored a report on big data and civil rights, worked with then-President Barack Obama’s task force on 21st century policing, helped develop the Police Data Initiative and was a member of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper task force.

He also spent five years with the Department of Justice, with the bulk of the time in the role of deputy assistant attorney general, civil rights division, and Austin overall has more than 25 years of experience as a civil rights lawyer and advocate.

Facebook said it intends to follow up on Austin’s hire by bringing more civil rights expertise in-house to work with its core teams, and the company is working with civil rights law firm Relman Colfax to develop training for employees who are involved in the early stages of policy and product development.

Chief general counsel Jennifer Newstead said in a statement, “I am delighted to welcome Roy to Facebook as our vp of civil rights. Roy has proved throughout his career that he is a passionate and principled advocate for civil rights, whether it is in the courtroom or the White House. I know he will bring the same wisdom, integrity and dedication to Facebook. It’s hard to imagine anyone better qualified to help us strengthen and advance civil rights on our platform and in our company.”

Civil rights and civil liberties advocate Laura Murphy, who guided the company through its 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 be taking a systematic and structural approach to addressing the many civil rights concerns that I laid out in the Facebook civil rights audit. Roy Austin is a great choice for this role. I worked with him extensively during his tenure at the White House. I urge Facebook to give him the latitude and resources to tackle the audit recommendations and any other civil rights issues that arise.”

And Austin said, “I am excited to join Facebook at this moment when there is a national and global awakening happening around civil rights. 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 so many underrepresented groups have faced, rather than to exacerbate it. I could not pass up the opportunity to join a company whose products are used by so many and that impacts the civil rights and liberties of billions of people, in order to help steer a better way forward.”