In a blog post this week, Facebook says it hasn’t been effective enough at identifying and removing hate speech posted on its site. The admission comes after pressure from women’s activist groups, demanding the social media giant do more to protect women and gender equality.
Facebook has long held freedom of expression to be paramount on its site, and has been criticized in the past for some of the content it has allowed to remain. While Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities defines hate speech as “direct and serious attack on any protected category of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease,” the overall concept of just what constitutes hate speech is somewhat ambiguous.
Such ambiguity has left the definition up to the sole discretion of Facebook. However, this week Facebook has acknowledged its shortcomings. In its May 28 blog post, Facebook said:
“In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better — and we will.”
The post goes on to detail several steps the site will immediately begin rolling out.
Just what exactly constitutes hate speech is sure to be a continuously evolving definition. It’s good to see that Facebook is taking a proactive approach toward preventing harmful and malicious content from being posted, and including advocacy groups and experts in the overall discussion.