The creators of a racist Aboriginal Memes Facebook page in Australia have removed all content from the site after facing relentless public pressure and a pending investigation from the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Facebook refused to take the page down, saying in a statement that it was “not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities”.
Facebook does not allow “hate speech,” and does not allow attacks based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease. However, satire is allowed. “We do…allow clear attempts at humor or satire that might otherwise be considered a possible threat or attack,” Facebook says on its ‘What does Facebook consider to be hate speech‘. “This includes content that many people may find to be in bad taste.”
However, the issue gets infinitely trickier because the page violates Australia’s Race Discrimination Act. Many Australian authorities are outraged by the perceived attitude of Facebook that it operates above local law.
The line between satire and reality is often a perilously fine one. After all, what is funny and what isn’t is entirely subjective. However, if Facebook receives such an overwhelmingly negative response to a page, it must take it down. At that point, it doesn’t matter how Facebook delineates between offensive humor and hate. If enough people find it offensive, then it is offensive.
Image Credit: Spencer E Holtaway
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As for the responsibility of a website to follow each country’s laws that it operates in, that’s a trickier subject still. We’ll leave that one for much smarter minds to sort out.