Sheryl Sandberg: The best way to fight hate groups online is with 'like attacks'

Photo: Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg.

The best way to combat hate speech is with overwhelming acts of tolerance, including “like attacks,” Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg said during a panel at the World Economics Forum.

She shared the story of how a German NGO dedicated to combatting Neo-Nazis swarmed the Facebook Page of the National Democratic Party.

“Rather than scream in protest, they got 100,000 people to ‘like’ the page who did not like it, and put messages of tolerance on the page,” she said.

“So then when you got to the page, they had completely changed the content. What was once a page filled with hatred and intolerance was now filled with tolerance and messages of hope.”

Her comments followed Facebook’s announcement earlier this week that it was pledging over $1 million to launch an “Inititiative for Civil Courage Online” which will partner with the German government, NGOs, and academic researchers to counter extremist posts on the social network.

Facebook’s policy on hate speech and calls for violence on the platform is to delete posts and shut down the accounts of people consistently posting them. The company recently hired a German publisher to monitor and delete racist posts on its local platform.

However, Sandberg says that even its best monitoring efforts can’t keep up with how frequently new hate speech pops up.

“The best antidote to bad speech is good speech,” she says. “The best antidote to hate is tolerance.”

Hence the “like” attacks.

Earlier this month, White House officials met with internet companies including Facebook to discuss ways to promote more user-generated content on the site that counters messages posted by supporters of ISIS.

Although Sandberg didn’t get into specfics about how or whether Facebook itself would do anything to promote anti-ISIS messages, she did “amplifying those voices” of people who had escaped from ISIS was the best way to counteract that speech.

(Business Insider reached out to Facebook for help identifying which pages Sandberg referred to in her “like attack” example and will update if we hear back.)

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