Facebook Community Guidelines … #100 – Unsupported get request
In the past week Facebook has hit the news for 2 similar reasons, in the UK for its algorithm promoting antisemitic content, and in India for overlooking hate speech by BJP (the ruling party) leaders. Both of these accusations could lead to quite a controversy given how Facebook does censor some items extremely quickly, while lets others fester. This short read looks at unravelling Facebook’s policies, actions and motives to see whether there is something deeper underneath the surface…
In recent days Facebook has come under fire for having Holocaust denial content being actively promoted by its algorithm. The algorithm in question here is Facebook’s main algorithm which decides what users see in their news feed. This algorithm is highly personalised, taking into account how long you look at each video, what type of reaction you use, whether your friends, family or people with similar thought processes are also watching/enjoying these videos. It is very sophisticated, however, there are flaws.
Most recently, Antisemitism. Facebook does not categories Holocaust denial as hate speech, meaning that according to Facebook they are allowed to remain on the platform. The Algorithm then promotes some of this content to people who are themselves Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites or by accident to people who are not antisemitic. Thereby actively promoting antisemitic hate speech which is illegal in certain parts of the world. This is a major problem for Facebook especially after committing days before to banning conspiracy theories about Jewish people “controlling the world”. Surely Holocaust denial is one of the largest conspiracy theories out there? The Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) also found that if you search the word holocaust in Facebook, results would appear for Holocaust denial pages showing a gross negligence in Facebook’s responsibility for its own search algorithm.
In a completely different set of circumstances, Facebook have come under fire in India for allowing hate speech to flourish. The Wall Street Journal have recently published an article which says that Facebook actively turned a blind eye to its own hate speech policies to allows BJP politicians (the ruling party) to post racist hate speech. The WSJ claimed that the posts were flagged by Facebook employees, however, senior Facebook officials did not act on this information. Specifically, being quoted by a number of current and former employees that “punishing violations by politicians from Modi’s (Indian Prime Minister) party would damage the company’s business prospects”. This shows how Facebook are not just a platform, their agenda seems to be the most important reason behind censorship which makes one wonder whether censoring high-profile American politicians was for the ‘good of society’ or for Facebook’s gain?
This isn’t a new problem by any means. In 2016 Facebook was found to be shutting down legal marijuana pages which promoted selling weed. This was in response for these pages being reported as breaking community guidelines. However, in the states (in the USA) they were operating in, these pages were totally legal and not breaking any type of drug law. The problem for Facebook in this case was that normally people were actively flagging up these pages saying they went against community standards. Facebook’s community standards are a set of guidelines which could be interpreted as the laws of the social network. In these cases, Facebook were shutting the pages down just because they were flagged as against the standards without human intervention, which is strange given that Facebook are against interfering without reasonable cause.
In conclusion, there is clear evidence that Facebook seem to have different rules for who you are and what you promote. Firstly, the audacity to not classify holocaust denial as hate speech is a shameful stance to have. Furthermore, not blocking posts by politicians in certain world regions is hypocritical. These issues have been going on for a long time, which is damaging Facebook’s reputation as a platform which is neutral to political views, yet anti hate speech. This could cause people to rethink whether they themselves should be on Facebook, what it does for them, and whether they agree with a social media platform who don’t even abide by their own “laws”. This could all result in a drop in users, which would seriously harm Facebook and all those who rely on it…