Senator Patrick Leahy asked a very pertinent question today surrounding how Facebook determine what it constitutes as hate speech. It was clear that Zuckerberg was uncomfortable answering because all the woolly talk about community and equality holds little mustard when it comes to protecting free speech.
The specific incident used as an example for the question referred to hate speech calling for the death of a Muslim journalist who was reporting on the genocide in Myanmar. The post went viral quickly, as demonstrated by the recent study which proved that fake news or aggressive commentary spread up to seven times quicker than the truth. Zuckerberg was asked why this offensive post was not taken down immediately when it was reported.
Indeed, whoever reported the post was informed by the Facebook support team that it did not violate their standards. Ethics and data harvesting aside, I believe this to be one of the major failings of Facebook and Zuckerberg. Everyone in entitled to freedom of speech. They can say what they want, when they want. However, if it’s on a platform where millions can read or interact with the kind of speech that’s aggressive or expresses violence towards a minority or religion, then it should be removed or taken down.
Far too many statements, even those as innocuous as “throw them all out” or “those fuckers should be hanged” are not conducive to an inclusive, welcoming world. By leaving them up for repeated viewing, social media networks are in the regard failing society.
People can give vent to their feelings or emotions in certain situations but that should not enable them to project this in terms of violence or discrimination. Whether it’s a staffing issue or an ethical policy problem, Zuckerberg has much work ahead of him if he wants his company to abide by the ethos of decent humanity he consistently proclaims.