- Last week, actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen gave a speech at the Anti-Defamation League about hate speech and anti-Semitism on social media.
- He called big tech and social media “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”
- Facebookresponded by saying that hate speech is banned on the platform.
- Reporters and critics on Twitter pointed out the gap between Facebook’s policy, and how it is actually implemented.
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Facebook has responded to actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s assertions that the platform is a home for hate speech and misinformation, but critics are pointing out ways the social media giant fails to uphold its own policies.
Last week, Cohen spoke at the Anti-Defamation League about hate speech and political lies on social media, and he specifically called out Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, who he says “care more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy.”
Cohen accused big tech companies of practicing “ideological imperialism,” in which a few billionaires can determine what information we see without accountability to voters or a government.
In response, Facebook said that Cohen misrepresented its policies. “Hate speech is actually banned on our platform. We ban people who advocate for violence and we remove anyone who praises or supports it,” Facebook said.
But critics have pointed out ways that Facebook has fallen short of its own policy. In a Twitter thread, CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan pointed out several examples of Facebook failing to curb harassment and hate speech.
As many people have correctly pointed out — Facebook policy is one thing, how they implement that policy is another.
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) November 23, 2019
Although Facebook announced bans on extremist groups as of March after the Christchurch, New Zealand, attacker went on Facebook Live, white supremacist groups are still active on the platform. O’Sullivan posted examples of these extremist groups still operating on Facebook.
The thread began with “Exhibit A” of Facebook not executing its stated policies, and made it all the way through “Exhibit P.” Other examples included sexual harassment on the platform, posts that incited political violence in Myanmar, a gun permit scam, and more.
New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac built on the points in the original thread, explaining that Facebook’s policies don’t match up with the reality of the platform.
just because hate speech is against Facebook’s policies does not mean hate speech is absent from facebook
the whole point of being at global scale is an inability to police your own content https://t.co/OvAT3Z0w6P
— rat king (@MikeIsaac) November 23, 2019
Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
In recent months, Facebook has struggled with moderating speech, specifically around political ads. Facebook stated that it will exempt political ads from normal fact-checking processes, which has been widely criticised, including by presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has doubled-down on defending the policy, which he says promotes the “marketplace of ideas” as people can see what politicians are saying for themselves. This stance has been highly controversial, and Facebook employees even sent Zuckerberg a letter asking him to rethink the company’s position. Despite backlash, Facebook appears to be sticking with this policy heading towards the 2020 presidential election.