A ProPublica investigation looks at how Facebook's censorship rules favor white people, elites, and governments. Erika
"In the wake of a terrorist attack in London
earlier this month, a U.S. congressman wrote a Facebook post in which
he called for the slaughter of 'radicalized' Muslims. 'Hunt them,
identify them, and kill them,' declared U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a
Louisiana Republican. 'Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good
and righteous. Kill them all.'
"Higgins’ plea for violent revenge went untouched by Facebook workers who scour the social network deleting offensive speech.
"But a May posting on Facebook by Boston poet and Black Lives Matter activist Didi Delgado drew a different response.
“'All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or
you’ve already failed,' Delgado wrote. The post was removed and her
Facebook account was disabled for seven days.
"A trove of
internal documents reviewed by ProPublica sheds new light on the secret
guidelines that Facebook’s censors use to distinguish between hate
speech and legitimate political expression. The documents reveal the
rationale behind seemingly inconsistent decisions. For instance,
Higgins’ incitement to violence passed muster because it targeted a
specific sub-group of Muslims — those that are 'radicalized' — while
Delgado’s post was deleted for attacking whites in general.
the past decade, the company has developed hundreds of rules, drawing
elaborate distinctions between what should and shouldn’t be allowed, in
an effort to make the site a safe place for its nearly 2 billion users.
The issue of how Facebook monitors this content has become increasingly
prominent in recent months, with the rise of 'fake news' — fabricated
stories that circulated on Facebook like 'Pope Francis Shocks the World,
Endorses Donald Trump For President, Releases Statement' — and growing
concern that terrorists are using social media for recruitment.
"While Facebook was credited during the 2010-2011 “Arab Spring” with
facilitating uprisings against authoritarian regimes, the documents
suggest that, at least in some instances, the company’s hate-speech
rules tend to favor elites and governments over grassroots activists and
racial minorities. In so doing, they serve the business interests of
the global company, which relies on national governments not to block
its service to their citizens."