I’ve come to the conclusion that Facebook has become a safe haven for hate speech rather than a safe space for minorities and disenfranchised groups.
According to Facebook’s community standards, hate speech is defined as “direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”
Unfortunately, I was disappointed to have to write this article about Facebook’s double standard on hate speech since, after all, they provide our publication a platform to curate progressive content. Nevertheless, the painfully racist images and comments that Facebook has found acceptable reinforces the idea that the expression of racist views should be tolerated despite the trauma these images evoke.
Over the last week, I’ve witnessed specific instances in which users have reported racist images that any reasonable, logical human being would conclude is racist, only to receive feedback that the images reported do not violate Facebook’s community standards against hate speech.
On May 10, I posted a comment which read “stupid white people.” The comment was referencing specific white people in an image on the post who were behaving irresponsibly, congregating in close proximity without considering social distancing. Almost immediately after commenting, I received a message that my post violated Facebook’s community standards on hate speech. Oddly, after further investigation, I discovered several racist posts and images with feedback from Facebook, which stated that the reported posts do not violate their community standards against hate speech.
A few days later, after noticing an image being circulated on Facebook depicting former President Obama being lynched, and then learning that upon being reported, the image somehow did not violate Facebook’s community standards on hate speech, I commented “I got put in Facebook jail for saying s^*%d whyte peeple.” I chose my words carefully since several Facebook users informed me that if I used that phrase without overtly typing “stupid white people,” then Facebook’s algorithm would not flag it as hate speech. However, again, I grossly miscalculated a multi-million dollar corporation’s “standard” for hate speech. Sadly, almost immediately after posting the comment, Facebook notified me that my comment violated their community standards against hate speech and informed me I was not allowed to post for 24 hours.
Warning: The following image which was allowed on Facebook depicts a lynching of an African American president and goes against Big Easy Magazine’s values.
The image above was reported multiple times by users, but Facebook provided the following response:
There have been many more instances of Facebook showing a disregard for hateful comments and posts, enabling and emboldening white supremacists and neo-Nazis while flagging innocuous comments and posts that take aim at minorities’ oppressors for endangering their livelihoods.
Just last week, Big Easy Magazine published a story about how Facebook allowed an advocacy group for the killers of Ahmaud Arbery to grow to over 100,000 people. The group was mostly made up of trolls, but the posts and comments in the group, which Facebook determined were acceptable, were allowed to stand without impunity. Below are some examples:
Let’s face it. As a society, considering the historical context of slavery and a century of discrimination and systemic oppression that followed, we should be forgiving and understanding when those who have been historically disenfranchised and their allies call out stupid white people for being covidiots and risking the lives of the more vulnerable to the Coronavirus, which have often times been minorities.
So where exactly does Facebook stand on employee diversity? A look at their own diversity report shows that in 2019, Facebook’s workforce comprised 44.2 percent white people and only 3.8 percent African Americans. A disproportionate share of its employees being white raises even more questions about Facebook’s cultural mindset. Does Facebook’s algorithm discriminate against minorities while giving a pass to white supremacists and hate groups? It certainly seems so when hate groups such as Qanon are allowed to exist and racist comments and photos are considered acceptable according to Facebook’s community standards.
It’s mind-boggling to me how a multibillion dollar corporation that has been in existence for nearly 20 years has yet to find ways to diversify its workforce; and moreover, if Facebook contends that employing the use of artificial intelligence to flag hate speech can result in imperfect outcomes, then why can’t such a wealthy company afford to hire actual people of color to review for potential hate speech? Unless Facebook begins to address their double standard on hate speech, they deserve no credibility when it comes to making decisions on what constitutes hate speech.