Not all hate speech is created equal, nor are those in which hate speech is directed. This is now the new edict from social media giant Facebook, which recently announced a change to their hate speech detection system.
According to a report by the Washington Post, Facebook is making major changes to the algorithms that police their platform for hate speech. While in its early stages, these changes are meant to better detect and remove the hateful speech that they consider to be the “worst of the worst.”
Facebook has banned hate speech for quite some time but as a general rule, they have looked at hate speech, all of it, in the same light. This new updated approach now promises to focus on prioritizing the detection and removal of hateful comments directed at, what they consider, underrepresented groups. This priority will include Black people, Muslims, people of multiple races, the LGBTQ community, and Jewish people. What is also notable with this new Facebook policy is that this reworked algorithm will now deprioritize some hateful comments directed at white people, Americans, and men. What does this mean for white people, Americans, and men? According to Ben Shapiro, host of his own The Ben Shapiro Show, “LMAO some racists are more equal than others.”
Facebook is not saying that hateful comments directed at white people, Americans, and men cannot be reported, they will just put less priority on removing them then they will on the others mentioned above. The social media giant is also making their new algorithm more nuanced, giving it the ability to recognize Blackface content, while also allowing for more conversation on, for instance, the critique of racism that may have been removed in the past. “We can’t combat systemic racism if we can’t talk about it and challenging white supremacy and white men is an important part of having dialogue about racism,” Boston University law professor Danielle Citron said via Vanity Fair. “But you can’t have the conversation if it is being filtered out, bizarrely, by overly blunt hate speech algorithms.”
All this comes on the heels of Facebook employing their “fact-checkers” who have been making their presence known all over the Facebook platform, removing what they consider to be untrue and also suspending accounts for those they feel continue to abuse the platform. As for the new change in prioritizing hate speech, “We know that hate speech targeted towards underrepresented groups can be the most harmful, which is why we have focused our technology on finding the hate speech that users and experts tell us is the most serious,” Facebook spokesperson Sally Aldous said in an emailed statement obtained by CNet. “Over the past year, we’ve also updated our policies to catch more implicit hate speech, such as content depicting Blackface, stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world, and banned holocaust denial.”
Even with Facebook stepping up to combat hate speech, there were many out there who didn’t feel Facebook was doing enough. Civil rights activists and politicians continued to rail on Facebook for not enforcing their rules strictly enough, which also caused major ad brands to pause their spending on Facebook in hopes it’d pressure Facebook to do more to combat hate speech. It worked because money talks.
Obviously, hate speech has no place in this world. It should always be condemned. But who is to say one set of hate speech is less hate than another? Apparently, Facebook feels they are.