Now that’s a really eye catching title isn’t it? Let’s start this essay off with some context. On July 31st at 12:00am at around midnight, my Facebook account was blocked from posting for 24 hours because two posts I made violated Facebook’s Community Standards for Hate Speech. While it’s entirely possible that someone who saw my posts reported them as such, it is equally likely that Facebook’s algorithms flagged the posts on their own. What did I post that was in such flagrant violation of Facebook’s Community Standards?
White People Can Be Terrorists Too
Men Are Weak
These posts, apparently, constitute Hate Speech. White men being such a marginalized group that they need special protection against verbal assault at the hands of a professional historian.
I will be the first person to call out Hate Speech in my daily life. I have a Master’s Degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. I wrote my Master’s Thesis on How Governments Use Words to Inspire Genocide and a book on how Genocide is Represented in Animated Televised Media. I know hate speech when I see it. I know the value of defending marginalized groups from verbal assault at the hands of oppressors. I know that sometimes free speech has to take a back seat to the right to live your life free of such verbal assault. What I posted isn’t even remotely hate speech.
Well ok, then what is hate speech?
The dictionary defines hate speech as such:
Hate Speech – noun
- speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
Looking at that definition, you might be under the impression that what I said does, in fact, constitute hate speech. You would think wrong. To further understand how this is not the case we have to look at the definition of a hate crime.
The dictionary defines a hate crime as such:
- a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence.
When we look at the crimes that have been classified as hate crimes, do you know what we don’t see? Crimes against white men. Hate crimes are always committed against marginalized and oppressed groups, by members of the group that oppresses them. A hate crime is when someone is murdered for being a PoC or for being queer. Hate speech is the use of slurs and threatening to harm members of an oppressed and protected class of people. Hate speech is not pointing out the inherent flaws in our society and how bad the people on the top of the social strata are at taking criticism.
Criticizing the status quo is not hate speech, it’s your civic duty.
I’m gonna take some time later to analyze the importance of what I said that got me blocked from Facebook. For now let’s take a look at Facebook’s Community Standards for Hate Speech.
What are Facebook’s Community Standards for Hate Speech?
Other than bullshit? Let’s take a look.
We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation. We separate attacks into three tiers of severity, as described below.
Tier 1 attacks, which target a person or group of people who share one of the above-listed characteristics or immigration status (including all subsets except those described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offenses), where attack is defined as
- Any violent speech or support in written or visual form
- Dehumanizing speech or imagery including (but not limited to)
- Reference or comparison to filth, bacteria, disease, or feces
- Reference or comparison to animals that are culturally perceived as intellectually or physically inferior
- Reference or comparison to subhumanity
- Mocking the concept, events or victims of hate crimes even if no real person is depicted in an image
- Designated dehumanizing comparisons in both written and visual form
Tier 2 attacks, which target a person or group of people who share any of the above-listed characteristics, where attack is defined as
- Statements of inferiority or an image implying a person’s or a group’s physical, mental, or moral deficiency
- Physical (including but not limited to “deformed,” “undeveloped,” “hideous,” “ugly”)
- Mental (including but not limited to “retarded,” “cretin,” “low IQ,” “stupid,” “idiot”)
- Moral (including but not limited to “slutty,” “fraud,” “cheap,” “free riders”)
- Expressions of contempt or their visual equivalent, including (but not limited to)
- “I hate”
- “I don’t like”
- “X are the worst”
- Expressions of disgust or their visual equivalent, including (but not limited to)
- Cursing at a person or group of people who share protected characteristics
Tier 3 attacks, which are calls to exclude or segregate a person or group of people based on the above-listed characteristics. We do allow criticism of immigration policies and arguments for restricting those policies.
Content that describes or negatively targets people with slurs, where slurs are defined as words commonly used as insulting labels for the above-listed characteristics.
Based on what we can see in Facebook’s Community Standards, it’s likely that my posts were deleted and that I was blocked for violating Tier 2 when I said “Men Are Weak” and “White People Are Terrorists Too”. White Men, we will remember, being one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in history.
But let’s look at some examples of posts that Facebook has allowed, and posts that Facebook has deleted.
A post made on June 4, 2017 made by a U.S. Congressman called for the death of all radicalized Muslims. Facebook didn’t remove this post, despite thousands of people reporting it because it targeted a very specific subgroup of Muslims. Radicalized ones. So despite being in clear violation of Facebook’s Tier 1 rules on Hate Speech, this post stayed up.
A post from May of 2017 made by a poet named DiDi Delgado was flagged as in violation of Facebook’s standards for stating that all White People Are Racist. This was flagged for targeting the whole of a group and saying that they are all this one thing. Which we are. All White People Are Racist. You might not be a frothing at the mouth White Nationalist, but we’re all a little bit racist. Take the criticism and try and be better.
Facebook’s policies tend to take a color blind approach and refuse to target posts that target a specific subgroup. So while posts that target black people will be removed, posts that target poor black people might not be. In this ProPublica article you can see how Facebook determines that White Men are a protected group, but not Black Children or Female Drivers.
My post about how Men Are Weak was blocked, but groups that the SPLC has listed as harmful still get verification checkmarks and donation buttons on their page. Groups like the Christian Action Network. Facebook’s Hate Speech algorithms are like a hammer. A color blind hammer that tries to take anything that attacks a group and blocks it, regardless of if the post is about a marginalized group, an entrenched power structure, or what have you. This might seem like a good thing on the surface. That way none of those posts get out, even though many of them do anyway, but this broad policy is doing more harm than good.
If we live in a world where we can’t criticize the powers that be, then we live in an authoritarian hellscape. such criticism was always the point of free speech. For us to be able to criticize the government without having to worry about being arrested or killed for expressing such an idea. When Facebook’s policies prevent us from doing that in the interests of stopping anything that might even be remotely hate speech they make an unsafe environment for minorities and anyone looking to change the status quo.
It’s also important to point out that while posts like Delgado’s statement that all White People Are Racist was taken down, there are still dozens of alt-right (Nazi) pages active on Facebook. Go through their posts and look at the images and memes they post. Ask yourself why so much of that is allowed, but I can’t criticize the media’s policy on Never Calling White People Terrorists.
So about those posts that got you banned…
Right, yeah. So first:
White People Can Be Terrorists Too.
Cause we can. That post wasn’t saying that all White People Are Terrorists. That would be ridiculous and false. We can be terrorists though. Most acts of domestic terrorism in the US are committed by White People. Just look at all the mass shootings that we have in this country. The vast, and overwhelming, majority are committed by White Men. These men are never called what they are though. The media leaps at the chance to call them mentally ill, or lone wolves, or depraved murderers. They are never called terrorists. We need only look at how many white mass shooters are taken in alive, versus how many unarmed black men are killed to see how much of a problem our country has with race.
So it’s important to be able to point out that White People Can Be Terrorists Too, because our media networks and politicians ignore that, and we can’t let them. When Facebook blocks posts that make that statement, they are defending and sheltering those White Terrorists from the public that sees and knows them for what they are.
Now my second post.
Men Are Weak.
If I wanted to go into depth on how messed up toxic masculinity is in our society I’d need a whole other essay (which I might write another time). Suffice it to say that a large percentage of men out there are entitled trash who never learned to respect the agency or needs of another human being. White Men specifically have been at the top of the social strata for so long that any push for equality is seen as oppression. Any tiny chink in the perfect armor of their social privilege is seen as a violent attack.
Look at the cries of “feminazi”. Look at the meninists. Look at all the rape apologists. Men are trash and they refuse to be held accountable for the damage that they do to the people around them. We won’t ever have any kind of equality or egalitarianism until we can point out the flaws in our power structures without having to worry about those power structures hitting back. Old Rich White Men are the entrenched power structure in the US. We have to be able to post about the problems that group and all of its subsets cause.
We have to be able to have an honest discussion of our society’s shortcomings if we expect to be able to fix them. If all those attempts keep getting us banned from the largest social media platform on the planet, then change is a long time coming.
I said something earlier in this essay that bears repeating. So I’ll end this essay saying it again, so that you don’t forget:
Criticizing the status quo is not hate speech, it’s your civic duty.