Facebook has recently come under increasing scrutiny from politicians around the world for supposedly not doing enough to combat hate speech and extremism (despite the site’s new initiative in Europe). The social media giant is certainly in a difficult position; how can it both respect its users’ privacy and free speech rights while helping law enforcement police extremism at the same time? Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has an innovative and controversial idea: by fighting these groups with kindness.
She said that one seemingly counterintuitive strategy to fight hate groups is to “like” their page and then flood it with positive, tolerant messages. She cited an example of users doing this to a hate page in Germany.
“[Facebook users] launched what they called ‘a like attack’ on the Facebook page of the NPD,” Sandberg noted. “The NPD is the neo-Nazi party. That page is filled with intolerance, and rather than scream and protest, they got 100,000 people to like the page, who did not like the page, and then put messages of tolerance on the page.”
However, this strategy is not without its critics. The Telegraph wrote that the worst way to handle online trolls is to engage with them, and that terrorist groups like ISIS would be delighted, not discouraged, to get so many likes and reach such a wide audience.
It’s a nice idea, but Sandberg’s plan might be a little naïve. Readers: how far do you think Facebook should go to police speech on its pages?