Understanding Facebook's Hate Speech Policy


Facebook's hate speech policy has become a hot button issue among many users. Those who follow political commentators or have been on the wrong end of Facebook's censorship will know of Facebook's flawed enforcement of their standards. Taking a look at the source article placed above, let's see what Facebook's official definition of hate speech is to better understand it.

Our current definition of hate speech is anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their “protected characteristics” — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.”

Those who are unfamiliar with the logical fallacies in debate, this would be referred to as ad hominem, when you attack the person rather than their argument. So keep that in mind next time you have something to critique about a particular person or persons, you'll get censored for ad hominem.

It is worth noting that depending on where you live, you may be subject to more regulation besides that on Facebook. For instance, in Germany, (Facebook reveals) it's illegal to use language that's incitement to hatred. As a result, you could become subject to a police raid. Conversely, in the United States, our First Amendment protects all forms of speech, even speech which most of us could agree is vile and despicable.

The term “hate speech” is a relatively new one and while we hash out the debate to find a proper definition, there is no universal agreement on what it is. That being said, be mindful of where you live and what platforms you use in regards to their “hate speech” policies.

In Facebook's article, they admit they've made mistakes in the past over hateful or inappropriate content being removed due to ignorance of the context. One other complication Facebook faces is multicultural meanings of the same word. The example they use is the word “fag”. In one case, it can be used as a slur against homosexuals, but if you're from Britain, a fag is merely a cigarette.

An area to be cautious of is using terms that are being reclaimed or have been reclaimed. The example the article uses is the word “dyke”. While in the past, it's been used as offensive and hatefully, there are those who are reclaiming it to use in a self-referential way. While the article doesn't concretely state it or expand on the explanation, it could imply that if you yourself are not a dyke, using this word even to address someone else (even non-maliciously) would be considered hate speech.

No matter your opinion on the topic and Facebook's enforcement on the matter, everyone should keep in mind, mistakes will happen, content will be censored when it shouldn't and content that should will be allowed to cycle through. So best practices would be to take a few extra seconds and think your words through (it helps in real life as well) before expressing them and be sure to avoid any ad hominem statements. When you post content that you know people could be sensitive to, take the time to add a quick statement to add some context to what you're posting. In theory, and based on the article's explanation of their policies, it should help reduce the risk of your content getting censored.

As these censorship incidences occur, especially if they happen to you or someone you know, respectfully send feedback to Facebook. Help them better understand language and context so we all may have an overall healthy engagement on their platform, otherwise they may refine their policies to be more restrictive because more voices called for speech to be restricted or follow a more rigid guideline.

Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed this bit. Hopefully it gave you some insight into the mind of Facebook and how it deals with “hate speech”. See you next time!


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