Speed Reads

not a good look

Facebook teaches its censors to protect 'white men' from hate speech but to ignore comments about 'black children'

Documents detailing how Facebook chooses to censor content were published by ProPublica on Wednesday — and they might raise a few eyebrows. One particularly questionable slide used to train censors teaches that "white males" are a protected category and attacks against them warrant users being blocked while unprotected "subsets," such as "black children," are fair game for vile internet trolls.

The reason is because Facebook "protects" people on the grounds of sex, religious affiliation, national origin, gender identity, serious disability or disease, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and race, but does not protect social class, continental origin, appearance, age, occupation, political ideology, religions, or countries. "Irish women," then, is a protected category, but not "Irish teens."

Facebook defended its policy as an imperfect attempt to apply consistent protection of minorities and genders around the globe. "The policies do not always lead to perfect outcomes," admitted the head of global policy management at the company, Monika Bickert,. "That is the reality of having policies that apply to a global community where people around the world are going to have very different ideas about what is okay to share."

Sometimes the policies appear to have especially imperfect outcomes, though. For example, swastikas are allowed on Facebook due to a rule permitting the "display [of] hate symbols for political messaging," but the statement "the French are the best but the Irish suck" would be banned because another rule states "it's okay to claim superiority for a nation ... but not at the expense of another nationality."

A recent thorny issue for Facebook has been speech regarding migrants:

After the wave of Syrian immigrants began arriving in Europe, Facebook added a special "quasi-protected" category for migrants, according to the documents. They are only protected against calls for violence and dehumanizing generalizations, but not against calls for exclusion and degrading generalizations that are not dehumanizing. So, according to one document, migrants can be referred to as "filthy" but not called "filth." They cannot be likened to filth or disease "when the comparison is in the noun form," the document explains. [ProPublica]

Read more about Facebook's censorship rules at ProPublica.