Committed

Facebook’s Plan to Stop the Hate: Holding Us Accountable

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A Facebook employee holds a laptop with a Like sticker at an event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on April 4, 2013

Yesterday, I asked Facebook to take down a fraudulent page. Within a few hours it was gone, just a shadowy image of a bandaged thumb where it used to be. Very effective. It’s highly likely I get better treatment from Facebook than your average Joe (because, um, they know me). When it comes to pages of questionable taste, Facebook moves a little more gingerly.

Too gingerly for some. There’s a lot of what is commonly called “disturbing” stuff on Facebook. It’s not Reddit or even Tumblr, where the hinterlands are torrid and vast, but for a big corporate entity that prides itself on making the world a better place, it sure hosts a lot of nasty. Let’s not link and bring these pages’ creators more jollies, but if your taste in humor runs to rape, domestic violence, dead babies, 9/11 victims or Oklahoma tornado misery, there’s a Facebook page for you. Generally, Facebook will take down what it deems harmful — hate speech, pornography, calls for violence — but not what it considers controversial. A lot of jokes about beating up women or rape seem to fall under that.

After a campaign by a number of women’s groups, however, who shrewdly targeted female-friendly Facebook advertisers like Dove, Facebook announced a change in policy regarding humor based on violence against women on May 28. “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,” wrote Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy at Facebook. Specifically Facebook monitors will be trained in this area, women’s groups will be given a way to communicate with Facebook HQ more easily and some of the other antihate groups advising Facebook will be asked to also offer counsel on violence against women.

(MORE: Why Facebook Makes You Feel Miserable)

In the past Facebook has tried to choke offensive, spammy pages by limiting the number of administrators it can have. Or waiting for complaints. In some instances, this was almost too effective; Facebook’s policy against the display of breasts, in any context, has been widely discussed. This was a particularly sore point in the recent protests. You can’t post a picture of a woman breast-feeding, yet you can post an image of a woman hogtied captioned with a rape joke.

But getting the offensive pages removed is all a bit of a game of whack-a-troll. As soon as one page is taken down, another goes up in its place. So the social-media giant’s trying something else new: making content creators own it: “… if an individual decides to publicly share cruel and insensitive content, users can hold the author accountable and directly object to the content,” wrote Levine.

This idea has two merits. One is that people who are held accountable for what they do and say are less likely to do and say repulsive things. (There are exceptions, of course, but they tend to be professional comedians or radio talk-show hosts.) The second one, more crucially for Facebook, is that it no longer has to take the heat for attention-seeking shut-ins with nothing better to do than pretend they’re sociopaths. This is kind of the approach Goldman Sachs took when it disinvested in BackPage.com, which may or may not have been pimping trafficked women but was definitely a family-unfriendly environment. Only Facebook’s disinvesting in its primary resource: users.

(MORE: Why You’re More Likely to Remember a Facebook Status Than a Face)

Making people show their faces, however, is a little anti-Internet. For a start, it’s a difficult thing to pull off; it’s not like you can write an algorithm for honesty. If people want to disguise their identity, the Internet can do very little to prevent that. Indeed for many, anonymity is one of the Internet’s chief thrills. In some countries, the ability to speak freely and not be identified is lifesaving. Moreover, up-and-coming sites like Tumblr and Reddit have no such qualms about identification, which may make them more attractive. Facebook says it’s testing the waters. In the meantime, the troll watching continues.

34 comments
sohails234
sohails234

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chookmcfadden
chookmcfadden

Come on guys... settle. Social media provides a forum just as CB radios did in the 70's. Isn't Facebook just our generation's version of carving our initials into a tree? Bee is right, Facebook provides a forum for everyone, including all the nuts out there. And remember, social media is like a bag of mixed nuts. We may not like all of what's inside, but if you look hard enough, you just may find half an almond in there.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

It's funny that Facebook claims to be, "combatting hateful and offensive individuals and material." 

All removing the pages does is drive the hate underground.  It's like pulling out a weed from the lawn, but forgetting to pull out the root as well.

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

What I hate about Facebook is that people actually think anyone cares about what they are doing tonight, or about their recipe for awesome and easy enchiladas, or that we want to see pics of their ugly kids.

haglundandrew
haglundandrew

To all these people complaining about being offended and using it as an excuse to get what they want, Id like to refer you to Stephen Fry's quote being offended;
“It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so f*cking what.”
have a nice day.

LeThuyTao
LeThuyTao

Facebook plays a very important role in my studying. I use Facebook to improve my English.

aj_derr
aj_derr

"Oklahoma hurricane misery"

Oops, tornado, not hurricane!

Gedge1969
Gedge1969

I don't know what Facebook you're using but the FB I know does NOT take down inappropriate pictures of naked bodies of either sex. In 5secs I could find full frontal nudity of either gender. (doing things to each other). Get real article. Don't lie.

deksoftwareint
deksoftwareint

I have seen some of the most vile anti-semitic hate on Facebook and there is nothing that Facebook does to stop it.  It's time to stop allowing people with hate in their heart towards, Women, Gays, Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, and any other person or group to post their poison on Facebook.  The First Amendment does not guarantee you the right to post your hatred towards other people without the media website you are posting it on having the right to remove it and block you from further posts.  It's time to say NO to the haters out there, and that they will NOT be given a platform to spout their poison.

HelenJParker
HelenJParker

This is not a surprise. It's subjective to consider that a joke or some article is offensive or not. Different people different argues and the discussion never ends. Starting that 40%, stats say, of the facebook accounts are fake . Thanks for the article. It's an interesting social debate

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Fillybuster2
Fillybuster2

Violence and hate go hand-in-hand, but hate usually precedes violence. Sometimes we breed hate just to justify violence. It’s a strange world we live in.


The adults of our world need to be vigilant for signs of hate. And teach their children to understand and accept rather than hate. I did, and a lot of parents I know did, and the world is becoming a better place.

algia10
algia10

Hey if you know them so well, maybe you could also tell them to stop stripping metadata off our images! 

They are turning our works into orphan works! 

Like this:
http://tiny.cc/8tryxw

Thank you!

tinatrent1
tinatrent1

And I offer you a case in point in the selective nature of outrage with "WayToGoDorner's" comment, below.  The name, not what is said.  He or she bears a name that celebrates the murder of innocent police officers.  Is that hate?  Should he or she be banned from this site, and facebook, and others?  

Is celebrating Chris Dorner hate?  Of course it is.  But people who attack "police" or "Americans" (as in 9/11, Ft. Hood, Boston, etc.) aren't called hate criminals -- because the hate crime activists who orchestrate the politics of these laws don't want them to be counted, and they have tremendous, if essentially illegitimate, power over the enforcement procedures.

God forbid that the largest category of hate crime murder would turn out to be "anti-American hate," or if the most common victims of serious hate crime annually were rape victims attacked by strangers -- the ultimate gender-bias crime, whether the victim is targeted for being male or female.  Or children, or teenagers.  Acknowledging that anti-American hatred is the most common form of hate crime murder -- or that garden-variety child molesters and ephebophiliacs are hate criminals -- certainly isn't what the Southern Policy Law Center and other activist groups signed up for when they promoted these laws. 


BoredBoredBored
BoredBoredBored

Men are by far greater victims of violence than women.  This is ridiculous.

tinatrent1
tinatrent1

Why should this surprise you?  The designation of misogyny -- from name-calling to rape and murder -- as hate crime was quietly undermined by left-wing activists in the 1990s.  Eric Holder and Elena Kagan orchestrated the deception, which is richly recounted in Kagan's recently released memos from that sleazy campaign.  The gay, ethnic and religious activists pushing hate crime laws made sure that heterosexual women wouldn't ever be officially "counted" as hate crime victims on the basis of gender -- because doing so, as the ADL memorably put it in 1996, would "distract" people from other, you know, more important forms of hate.

They didn't want heterosexual women counted because then there would be too many heterosexual female victims of gender-bias hate.

It was bad enough that they did this.  It was worse that they lied, and worse still that women's groups like the NOW deceived their own membership in order to keep their place at the all important hate crime table -- by cutting deals that benefitted the lesbians and women of color in the organization at the expense of white heterosexual female members being lied to.

This sleazy chapter in the politics-of-prejudice-politics illuminates the real problem with "hate speech" and "hate crime" campaigns in general, including this one: when you impose identity politics on the law, you turn the law into a zero-sum game, with some types of people automatically deemed "less equal" than others.  

Rather than choosing to police people's speech on a facebook page, perhaps you could fight for something really important: the elimination of hate crime codes that enforce differing degrees of legal and ethical value based on an ugly calculus of identity politics.  That used to be the urgent goal of just-minded people, until this "hate crime" obsession came along.      



buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

I don't use Facebook. However, I am really stunned at the level of bile and viciousness displayed on even the most innocuous "Comment" board. To be honest, I flamed a few people myself, But now, Jeez, there are some real oddballs putting up some bad stuff. I know many of these people only say this stuff because, for the most part, they know that they can't be found. Perhaps if  people were made to use their own names and addresses instead of snarky/ fantasy avatars some of the hatred might stop. Just a thought. 

KyleWhaley
KyleWhaley

I stopped reading at  "Oklahoma hurricane misery"

cryofax
cryofax

You know what's worse than distasteful pages? Self righteous a$$holes running around as the content police.

guguelmail
guguelmail

Will they also stop hate against males messages ? Because they will have to close most feminists pages..

ajain31
ajain31

Great topical article!

Ajay Jain

Twitter @ajain31

ajain31@gmail.com

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

@LeThuyTao You could also try books and newspapers.  The people I know on Facebook aren't exactly who I would recommend for English lessons. 

a1norseman
a1norseman

@deksoftwareintYou have freedom OF speech not freedom FROM speech. Your subjective opinion or that of Facebook should NOT be used to censor someone. Facebook has ample tools to control your timeline, profile page, the people you friend and the pages to which you subscribe. You can block any content. You can take the personal responsibility to censor for yourself. You DO NOT have the right to make that choice for someone else. It is the equivalent of book burning. The internet is a worldwide community over which you do not have control. There are activist people who troll Facebook for the sole purpose of censoring the speech of others but would be offended if their speech was censored. Roll up into a cocoon if you wish but leave everyone else alone.

glennra3
glennra3

@WaytoGoDorner 

Is your second sentence commenting on the first?

Men are greater victims of violence as a raw number for the simple reason that men are, overwhelmingly, the instigators of violence against both genders.  In the U.S. 90% of homicides are committed by men. Women make up over 80% of domestic violence victims, almost entirely at the hands of men. 


It is not an exaggeration to say that violent crime is an almost exclusively male characteristic. Almost. 


livinilla
livinilla

Oh you are insane! Righty fascists are the one's attempting to install tealiban sharia against women. Pathetic!

glennra3
glennra3

@tinatrent1 

I just don't have the gene that lets me see conspiracies everywhere.

livinilla
livinilla

G shoot up a kiddie camp or some other thing scum like you think is 'fun'.

MeganRegnier
MeganRegnier

@a1norseman @deksoftwareint  This may shock you, but in Canada we do have a freedom from hate speech. If what you say is determined to be able to cause violence against a person, you can get a fine. This is why certain Tories aren't allowed north of the border. 

MeganRegnier
MeganRegnier

   It's hardly tyranny. Tyranny would be the fact that in the US you can get fired in Right to Work states because your boss doesn't like your bumper sticker and the fact that you might not be Christian.


You may want to actually research how Canada's hate speech laws work. For some reason White Supremacy groups having a march in Calgary isn't hate speech as long as they don't start targeting a certain group during a rally.Saying that we should kill a certain group is. It would have to be something like when Michele Bachman stated that Hilary Clinton's aide was connected to the Muslim brotherhood and added more on to it so that the woman's life was in danger. If your speech is intentionally incendiary such as Glenn Beck stating that Muslims are trying to take over America and we need to stop them. That can be construed as hate speech. The WBC is banned from Canada because they intentionally try to instigate with people. That's hate speech. So yes, you can in fact tell when someone means to be hateful and incite violence against people. 

a1norseman
a1norseman

@MeganRegnier @a1norseman @deksoftwareint   I'm not shocked. It is human nature to try to impose your will on others. This is tyranny and it exists around the world. Hate is an emotion that exists in the thoughts of an individual. Unless you are clairvoyant, you cannot determine whether hate or some other emotion is the motivation for speech. Therefore it is a subjective conclusion. No law can regulate thought. Law can only regulate action. I can threaten to harm you but that speech unless carried into action does not actually harm you. A person is responsible only for their own actions. Any law that makes a person responsible for the actions of others is ludicrous. It is sad and regrettable that you must live under such tyranny.