Facebook released a “report” on Wednesday, which is anything but transparent concerning its censorship and deplatforming of millions.
“The company said it removed more than 3.2 billion fake accounts between April and September,” and it also removed 11.4 million pieces of "hate speech” during the same six-month period.
The metrics shown indicate that April-June of 2019, 4.4 million pieces of content were “acted on” with 117.4k restored after appeal. July-September of 2019, 7.0 million pieces of content were “acted on” with 169.7k restored after appeal. Facebook’s “Community Standards Enforcement Report” listed many graphics showing the amounts of content removed, appealed, and reinstated, but it did not show examples of the content itself.
Could this have been in response to multiple forces outside the United States demanding crackdowns on offensive speech? After the tragic New Zealand terrorist attack, companies like Twitter and Facebook signed the Christchurch Call which was meant to, as CNET summarized “prevent terrorists from uploading extremist content online, and to increase transparency around tech companies' algorithms and the detection and removal of such content."
The White House, wary of any slippery slope that could lead to restriction of free speech, declined to sign New Zealand’s censorship call.
Facebook, however, does include standards of what constitutes hate speech.
Facebook included “Tier 1” offences such as “Dehumanizing speech or imagery in the form of comparisons, generalizations, or unqualified behavioral statements,” which compare people or groups to “Insects,” “Animals that are culturally perceived as intellectually or physically inferior” among the list of things considered as hate speech.
Bret Stephens may have appreciated this sort of label after a professor reportedly compared him to a “bedbug.”
“Mocking the concept, events or victims of hate crimes even if no real person is depicted in an image” is also listed among “Tier 1” offences, which may mean that mocking the idea of something being considered a hate crime is in and of itself a form of wrongthink worthy of censorship.
The same list also cited the more generalized “Designated dehumanizing comparisons, generalizations, or behavioral statements (in written or visual form)” as a violation.
Would Hillary’s declaration of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables” qualify?
In addition, Facebook included among “Tier 2” offences of hate speech, “Content targeting a person or group of people on the basis of their protected characteristic(s) with” insults based on “intellectual capacity, including but not limited to: dumb, stupid, idiots,” and even education level, “including but not limited to: illiterate, uneducated” also qualify.
It also lists “Self-admission to intolerance on the basis of a protected characteristics, including but not limited to: homophobic, islamophobic, racist.”
One can only wonder why they chose to say they are giving voice to protecting people from islamophobia and not religious intolerance in general.
This report, of course, came at a time when political leaders in America had also been calling for Big Tech to censor free speech, including calls to censor no less than the American president himself.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) threw down the gauntlet at Facebook after it made the free speech stance of refusing to fact-check political ads. She accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of giving "Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform,” and she “intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved” to criticize Facebook’s policy.
Other Democrats have called for Big Tech to take action in different ways.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) called for sitting President Donald J. Trump to have his Twitter “privilege” “taken from him” on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.
Harris tweeted on October 1 that “Trump has again shown he is irresponsible and endangering others with his tweets. He should lose the privilege to be on Twitter.”
She took her complaint directly to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and tweeted “[h]ey, @jack. Time to do something about this.”
This ironically brought even Democratic Party primary candidates Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Senator Warren to rejected these comments, at least with regard to Twitter.