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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facebook Says It Will Start Weeding Out All the Haters on Its Social Media Site

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2013 at 8:03 AM

Hating on hate
  • Hating on hate

Whatever horrible things you had to say on Facebook, hopefully, you've gotten it out of your system by now. Or might we suggest biting your tongue and taking up some form of daily exercise.

The hate speech free-for-all is coming to an end -- hopefully.

Facebook announced via a blog post that it will start seriously cracking down on the racist, sexist, and general hateful speech that's bringing the social media network down. It won't be easy and will require a lot of lawyering but the new rules and regulations will be immediate, according to Facebook.

The Menlo Park-based company didn't specifically mention the recent hate speech posted on Facebook targeting Congresswoman Jackie Speier after she sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informing him of a Facebook page which she thought helped "contribute to a culture that permits and seems to encourage sexual assault and abuse." However, the announcement came Tuesday, a few days after Facebook shut down a page dedicated to hating Speier.

Here's what Facebook had to say:

Recently there has been some attention given to Facebook's content policy. The current concern, voiced by Women, Action and The Media, The Everyday Sexism Project, and the coalition they represent, has focused on content that targets women with images and content that threatens or incites gender-based violence or hate.

Many different groups which have historically faced discrimination in society, including representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, and LGBT communities, have reached out to us in the past to help us understand the threatening nature of content, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive feedback we have received. In light of this recent attention, we want to take this opportunity to explain our philosophy and policies regarding controversial or harmful content, including hate speech, and to explain some of the steps we are taking to reduce the proliferation of content that could create an unsafe environment for users.

Facebook's mission has always been to make the world more open and connected. We seek to provide a platform where people can share and surface content, messages and ideas freely, while still respecting the rights of others. When people can engage in meaningful conversations and exchanges with their friends, family and communities online, amazingly positive things can happen.

To facilitate this goal, we also work hard to make our platform a safe and respectful place for sharing and connection. This requires us to make difficult decisions and balance concerns about free expression and community respect. We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying). A list of prohibited categories of content can be found in our Community Standards at

In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better - and we will.

How will Facebook keep the haters at bay? Here are a few of its stated goals:

  • Increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive by insisting that the authors stand behind the content they create.

  • The company will update the training for the teams that review and evaluate reports of hateful speech or harmful content on Facebook. To ensure that the training is robust, it will work with legal experts and others, including members of the women's coalition to identify resources or highlight areas of particular concern for inclusion in the training

  • It will encourage the Anti-Defamation League's Anti-Cyberhate working group and other international working groups that it currently works with on these issues to include representatives of the women's coalition to identify how to balance considerations of free expression, to undertake research on the effect of online hate speech on the online experiences of members of groups that have historically faced discrimination in society, and to evaluate progress on its collective objectives.

If you are confused about whether your loathsome diatribes fall into the category of "that's not Okay" have a quick gander at Facebook's rules.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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