Facebook revealed there was a 56 percent increase in the number of posts removed for violating the site’s “hate speech” rule.
Facebook’s Community standards Enforcement Preliminary Report showed that between October and December 2017, it “took action” against 1.6 million pieces of content for violating the site’s Community Standards rule against hate speech. Between January and March 2018, that number jumped 56 percent. In those months, Facebook took action against 2.5 million pieces of content for violating the site’s standard against hate speech.
The description of Facebook’s Community Standards report claimed that “taking action” could mean a variety of things, from “removing a piece of content from Facebook, covering photos or videos that may be disturbing to some audiences with a warning, or disabling accounts.” The news release for the enforcement numbers, however, explicitly claimed that 2.5 million “pieces of hate speech” were removed from the site.
There was also a large increase in the number of posts removed because of Facebook’s flagging technology: an increase from 23.6 percent in Q4 2017 to 38 percent in Q1 2018. This means in Q1 2018, 62 percent of content removed for violating the hate speech rule was because the content was flagged by Facebook’s users.
According to Facebook, “The amount of content we flagged increased from around 24% in Q4 2017 because we improved our detection technology and processes to find and flag more content before users reported it.”
On the page of the report related to hate speech, Facebook provides a link to a 2017 post by the VP EMEA of Public Policy, Richard Allen, about “Who Should Decide What Is Hate Speech in an Online Global Community?” Facebook explains that things such as context and intent matter, while mistakes can also be made when enforcing the hate speech rule.
Conservatives are particularly wary of Facebook’s hate speech guidelines, as they can be interpreted it ban certain ways of speaking, such as criticizing people for their moral choices. Given the increase in reliance on technology in order to get rid of hate speech, and the subjective nature of hate speech, it is possible Facebook could have to issue many more apologies.