Problems with Facebook and some users

Update: Facebook has restored our commentary about the article

An article by the examiner has highlights a real problem in relation to Facebook, and it’s not the problem the article intended to raise. The article argues Facebook is removing content critical of Islam but leaving up content advocating violence against Jews.

In reality, Facebook is wrongly rejecting all sorts of complaints including reports of antisemitism, reports of anti-Muslim hate, reports of cyberbullying, etc. Sometimes they come back to a report and ultimately take action, but the initial rejections of clear cases of hate have a serious impact on those who have been targeted.

The real problem this particular article exposes is that some people believe they have a right not just to criticize Islam as a religion, but also to target Muslims. They feel that as along as they stay within the bounds of US law by not calling for violence, they should be able to say it on Facebook. This simply isn’t the case. Facebook’s own community standards go beyond the minimal requirements of US law (where hate speech is remains lawful – be it against Muslims, Jews or anyone else).

Facebook’s Community Standards mean the sort of content posted by the page Islam Exposed, which is mentioned in the article, really should have triggered removal a long time ago. OHPI has previously explained why that page was a hate page and provided examples of its content.  The fact that page only just came down (and it’s backup page is still up) undermines the entire premise of the article. We congratulate Facebook on finally taking Islam Exposed’s main page down.

The above content is slightly altered from a post we made on Facebook about four hours ago. The post mysteriously vanished with no notification to the administrators. Shared copies of that post also vanished. The removal will not have focused on our commentary but will have effected all posts that shared a link to the article. While we believe the article is wrong, we are also deeply concerned to see Facebook using its technical power to censor a news story that is critical of Facebook.

The problems, to recap:

  1. Facebook rejects most legitimate reports
  2. While Facebook does sometimes review reports and change it’s mind, the initial rejection still does damage
  3. Facebook is censoring news articles that are critical of Facebook, this is an abuse of Facebook’s position in the market. The fact the article was factually wrong is irrelevant.
  4. Some users don’t understand that Facebook prohibits hate speech. The First Amendment to the US Constitution means the US Government can’t make a law that forces Facebook to prohibit hate speech, but neither can the US Government make a law requiring Facebook to permit hate speech. The choice belongs to the company, and the policy is to prohibit hate speech, which makes it easier to comply with the law in the rest of the world (where the majority of Facebook users live).