Monday 10th December 2018

Facebook marked posts containing excerpts from the US Declaration of Independence as hate speech

The posts were published by The Vindicator, a news organization based in Texas, and were seemingly removed a few days before US Independence Day.
Jason Smith
by on 4th July 2018

Facebook marked posts containing excerpts from the US Declaration of Independence as hate speech two days before the United States’ annual Independence Day holiday.

The posts were published in celebration of Independence Day by The Vindictator, a news organization based in Texas.

It had encouraged its Facebook followers to read the Declaration of Independence, and to facilitate that objective it condensed the document into 12 excerpts that would be published to its page between 24th June and 4th July.

However, upon posting excerpts from paragraphs 27 to 31, the administrator of the page spotted a message articulating it had violated Facebook’s policies.

Facebook asked The Vindicator to review the contents of its page and remove anything that contravenes its policies.

While it’s unclear what passage violated Facebook’s content moderation policies, The Vindicator suspects it was moderated for posting an excerpt containing the words “Indian Savages.”

The Vindicator sent messages to Facebook protesting the automated action and received a response roughly 24 hours later, at which point the post was restored.

In its post, The Vindicator also acknowledges that “Facebook is a business corporation, not the government, and as such it is allowed to restrict use of its services as long as those restrictions do not violate any laws.”

It goes on to state, “The Vindicator is using Facebook for free, so the newspaper has little grounds for complaint other than the silliness of it.”

Facebook has faced intense criticism from journalists and public officials in recent months over topics as varied as illegal content, data protection and alleged electoral interference.

The social network also recently posted a 700 page document in response to questions left unanswered from its hearing before U.S. Congress earlier this year.

In response to criticisms, the platform has introduced a swathe of new measures including limiting developer access to its APIs, improving the readability of its privacy statements, soliciting verification from political advertisers and re-engineering its News Feed to prioritize local news ahead of national news.

It has also recently introduced new features that provide users extra insight into the targeting practices of organizations delivering advertisements on its platform.

Despite attempting to reform its practices, it has continued to be criticized over new alleged data breaches and its relationships with prominent device manufacturers.