In recent months, Facebook has found itself in near-constant trouble over its rules on privacy and speech. The furor only grew when, last month, The Guardian published the site’s guidelines for removing content. Some of the rules were both confusing and controversial, like one that allows videos of self-harm to be livestreamed. Well, Facebook can expect to hear a fresh outcry this week over its internal policies; a new report from ProPublica alleges that the site protects white men from hate speech under its censorship rules, but not black children.
In one particularly eye-opening document, three pictures are displayed in a presentation slide with a question for the presentation’s intended audience (content moderators). The question asks which image depicts a group protected by the site’s hate speech rules: female drivers, black children, and white men. The correct answer, according to the allegedly leaked internal Facebook document, is white men.
This is an unbelievably tone-deaf way to spell out the rules of the platform, but there’s a reason Facebook reached this conclusion: its own algorithms. The site offers hate speech protection to broad groups of people, based on religion, nationality, race, sexuality and more. However, the site does not offer much protection for so-called “subsets” of protected categories. For instance, “female drivers” are a subset of women, a protected group. “Black children” are a subset of black people. It makes sense – but only if you accept Facebook’s bizarre rules in the first place. Indeed, the social media giant is sure to catch unreal amounts of heat for this gaffe.
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