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Facebook to block hate speech


Tech Reporter

Facebook has announced policy changes that include flag or prohibiting posts deemed hate speech.

   This follows growing momentum among advertisers to boycott the social network until it does more to fight offensive content on the platform. 

  Brands that include Unilever, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Levi’s, Honda and Verizon have said they won’t advertise on Facebook sites until the company does more to combat hate speech.

   The Stop Hate for Profit campaign has attracted over 160 companies who pledged not to advertise on Facebook for July. 

  Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer told Reuters that the campaign plans to expand its efforts worldwide; and will begin calling on major companies in Europe to join the boycott.

  Their stance appears to have sparked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take action, with new content policies announced to prepare for the US elections in November.

  Facebook announced a month ago that it would review its policies ahead of the elections. It’s already started a massive voting information campaign and plans to tighten its policies on spreading misinformation about when or how people can vote to include postal voting, given the importance of the latter during the Covid-19 pandemic. Policy against hate speech will also be tightened, both for ads and user posts.

   Previously it let certain content stand in the name of free expression. 

  It is now expanding the ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others. 

  In addition, the policies will better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.

  Facebook has also allowed some content that would otherwise violate its policies to remain online in the name of the public interest, for example posts by major politicians like US President Donald Trump. 

  Similar to the measures taken by Twitter, Facebook will start labelling these posts to explain its policy. The posts will still be open to share, ‘because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society’, but people will receive a warning that sharing such content may violate the platform’s policies. 

  An exception to the above policy on newsworthy but contentious posts is any content that incites violence or suppresses voting, Facebook said. 

  Zuckerberg said:  “Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down; and  there are no exceptions for politicians.”