Free (Hate) Speech on Facebook

When Facebook employees noted that a number of Donald J. Trump’s posts—for example, his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States—violated the site’s hate speech policy, Mark Zuckerberg stepped in to preserve them in the name of free speech. In a leaked internal message published by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Zuckerberg explained: “I know there are strong views on the election this year both in the US and around the world. We see them play out on Facebook every day. Our community will be stronger for its differences—not only in areas like race and gender, but also in areas like political ideology and religion.”

It is surprising to see Facebook’s chief executive employ a moral defense of free speech. Mr. Zuckerberg has claimed on numerous occasions that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company” and thus remains neutral toward content. His willingness to discuss competing values is far more persuasive than the company’s typical insistence that it is not accountable for what appears in a user’s news feed.


Implicit moral values baked into algorithms and filters should be made more explicit and discussed across the technology industry. Even as Facebook protects Mr. Trump’s free speech in the name of allowing political debate, it has been accused of suppressing posts that expose police brutality. As more of our news is filtered through social media, we should demand honesty and transparency about how these information gatekeepers shape public discourse. Claiming, “We are a technology company” does not exempt Facebook from criticism for the impact it has on important moral and civic discussions.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Mike Greenbeck
2 years 1 month ago
Donald J. Trump’s posts—for example, his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States—violated the site’s hate speech policy,
--- I stopped reading right there and the reason is simple. There is NO such thing as "hate speech." The fact is that the phrase 'hate speech' (and 'Hate Crimes') was concocted by communist subversives, and agents of the USSR in the 1950's(60's?) as part of their goal to tear apart the fabric of American society, and American values. --- That being said, the sole purpose of our 1st Amendment's protection of speech is to protect speech that we don't agree with, speech that we find vile and offensive -- 'hate speech' if it did exist is prime example of protected speech. After all, speech that everyone likes and agrees with doesn't need any protection, now does it. --- Also, folks seem to forget or not know that our 1st Amendment right to Free Speech is NOT absolute. It is only protected from government censorship in a government surrounding/setting, like a public park. Not from a private enterprise, like at your job at a private company or corporation -- or making comments on a website, like Facebook. The fact is they can censor you for anything they want. That they don't is a privilege they're extending to you and it can be withdrawn at any time. --- With that being said, anyone who goes to Facebook (or Twitter) for their "News" has the IQ of a pomegranate and deserves anything they get, or don't get.


The latest from america

“This generation” of religious leaders whom Jesus takes to task in today’s Gospel resist the new and different.
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 13, 2018
Archbishop García-Siller keynoted “The Church in America: A Conversation on Immigration,” an event co-sponsored by America Media and the Mexican American Catholic College. Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and Sean Carroll, S.J., executive
J.D. Long-GarcíaDecember 13, 2018
Photo of the Velvet Underground and Nico (Cornell University - Division of Rare Manuscript Collections)
In a new exhibit, we are treated to a kind of shrine to the band’s origins.
Rob Weinert-KendtDecember 13, 2018
I was standing in the dumpster looking for food when I was overwhelmed by the thought that I am feeding my family garbage.
Judy Ann EichstedtDecember 13, 2018