Facebook has expanded its already-prodigious list of banned content to include insults, blackface, and the notion that Jews control major industries. But even these new rules aren’t enough – and nothing ever will be.
The social media behemoth has bent the knee in spectacularly groveling fashion following a pro-censorship campaign disguised as an advertiser protest against Facebook’s supposed leniency toward “hate speech.” In a blog post on Tuesday, the platform announced a dramatic expansion of its Hate Speech policy along with the formation of a “Diversity Advisory Council” and a handful of “inclusivity” task forces.
Facebook has even volunteered to submit to an “independent, third-party audit in 2021,” issuing a call for proposals for would-be auditors to “grade its homework” – i.e. verify it’s not manipulating statistics to make itself look tougher on “hate speech” than it really is. In sum, Facebook has completely dropped its pretense of defiance and acquiesced to the demands of Stop Hate for Profit, the boycott campaign led by notorious censorship advocates the Anti-Defamation League.
Just as the ADL maintains its dominance by hyping up hate crimes to give the impression that Nazis and KKK members are lurking around every corner, triggering worried liberals to throw money at them to make the bad people go away, Stop Hate for Profit convinced large corporations that buying ads on Facebook was akin to endorsing the local chapter of the Hitler Youth – or Trump’s re-election campaign. Companies already walking on eggshells amid the racial reckoning triggered by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis were in no position to oppose the ADL, especially when it had deputized social justice powerhouses like the NAACP and Color of Change to give its cause a patina of authenticity.
Never particularly well-defined, the concept of “hate speech” on Facebook already included not only “generalizations that state inferiority” (of the hygienic, mental, or moral variety), “expressions of contempt,” and “expressions of disgust,” but even “expressions of dismissal.” Yes, stating one does not care about [protected group] counts as hate speech on the world’s largest social media platform. “Mocking the concept, events or victims of hate crimes” is also outlawed, an interesting policy wrinkle given the ADL’s known propensity for flat-out inventing its own hate crime stats.
To the laundry list of oddly-specific no-nos (which includes both comparisons between “black people and apes or ape-like creatures” and “black people and farm equipment”), Tuesday’s update added blackface and comments about “Jewish people running the world or controlling major institutions such as media networks, the economy or the government.”
The latter is a touchy subject, given that Jewish Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Jewish Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once paid for propaganda images depicting Jewish currency speculator and infamous liberal megadonor George Soros as an octopus with his tentacles engulfing the earth. Presumably, the new policy prevents users from commenting that Jewish nonprofit the ADL underwrote the campaign to censor such talk in the first place, or that Soros has been publicly trying to unseat Zuckerberg from the CEO’s chair for months. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in knuckling under to the ADL, Zuckerberg walked right into a trap that would secure his own departure from the company? But that would be an antisemitic conspiracy theory that doesn’t bear thinking about. Perish the thought!
Even the blackface ban seems designed for overreach. Facebook acknowledged the measure would rule out portraying Black Pete, a traditional character seen at Christmas celebrations in the Netherlands who sports blackface, or morris dancers who happen to have painted their faces black, but might permit critical discussion of – for example – a politician discovered to have worn blackface at some point.
The amount of “collateral damage” done to organic human conversations on Facebook by algorithms removing content whose real meaning they’re unable to determine – given artificial intelligence’s inability to recognize sarcasm, nuance, or indeed anything less subtle than a blow to the head – is massive. By continuing to expand the “hate speech” category long past what anyone would consider “hate,” Zuckerberg’s platform has placed a fatwa on edgy humor. And if their “blackface enforcement” is anything like their “hate speech” enforcement, spray-tan users are likely to find their posts flagged as offensive.
In its quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report, Facebook hyped a massive increase in hate speech enforcement for the last quarter, noting it had deleted 22.5 million “items” as opposed to 9.6 million during the previous period. While Zuckerberg revealed during last month’s Big Tech antitrust hearings that Facebook censors nearly 90 percent of so-called “hate speech” before it’s seen by anyone at all, the quarterly report proclaimed that percentage had actually risen to 95 percent – raising the question of who, if anyone, is complaining about much of this material, and who was offended enough to push for an advertiser boycott in the first place.
Mainstream media coverage of the new rules almost always includes a few malcontents opining that Facebook either hasn’t gone far enough, didn’t act soon enough, or isn’t really sincere in its desire to shield anyone possessing “protected characteristics” from mean comments (seriously, “profane terms or phrases with the intent to insult” are classed as hate speech, too).
Zuckerberg surely knows he’s going to be apologizing for the rest of his life – or the rest of his time as CEO, at least – and adding more and more types of naughty conversation to Facebook’s “hate speech” compendium. How soon will it be before they decide it makes sense to just release a list of approved opinions and allow users to select from these family-safe, pre-digested ideas?