This week, Germany’s minister of justice and consumer protection wrote a letter to Facebook’s European public policy director urging the site to crack down harder on racist hate speech language.
The minister, Heiko Maas, wrote the letter shortly after riots erupted in Germany at a neo-Nazi protest of a refugee shelter. Maas was critical of Facebook’s fast response to censoring content that’s sexual in nature, but its slow and sometimes inconsistent policing of racist posts.
“Facebook users are, in particular, complaining increasingly that your company is not effectively stopping racist ‘posts’ and comments despite their pointing out concrete examples,” he wrote. “Photos of certain body parts are automatically deleted because of moral concerns, yet racist and xenophobic statements aren’t immediately removed.”
Though Facebook’s Community Standards do ban hate speech of any kind, the site tends to err on the side of free speech rights and can let some pretty offensive language and content remain posted. However, the site has expressed interest in meeting with the German minister to discuss the issues he raised.
Some offensive content is always going to slip through the cracks with a website the size of Facebook, but there’s no doubt that the site needs to do a better job of policing itself and rely less on users to report it.