Are Facebook changes killing freedom of speech?

What's Going On

Reported Victor O.

Top social media site Facebook has revised its community guidelines and is ready to take sterner actions against the spread of hate speeches on its platform, especially against those directed at what it described as “protected groups.”

Facebook’s Community Standards spell out the things that are allowed and those that are not on the foremost social network. The updated guidelines, which were introduced by the company on Monday, shed more light on not only what Facebook thinks and will do about hate speech, but also addresses other controversial issues such as nudity and graphic violence on the site. Violation of these updated guidelines could lead to possible termination of the accounts of infringing users.

This latest move could have been influenced by calls for social networks to step up efforts to curb violence, radical extremism and terrorism on the platform.

While Facebook intends “to create an environment where people feel motivated and empowered to treat each other with empathy and respect,” through the new Community Standards, there are some contentious portions in the guidelines.

The hate speech guidelines prohibit all content attacking other groups based on their race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, national origin and sexual orientation. But then, the definition of hate speech is probably more subjective than what Facebook thinks. For example, John Hayward of Breitbart notes that the s*x and gender category is highly open to subjective judgment. Any trivial thing could be easily labeled as hateful by members of a gender identity group.

Also, the updated Community Standards appear to provide backing to totalitarian governments, as a portion of the standards reads, “There are also times when we may have to remove or restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.” By this section, Facebook seemingly fails to take into consideration the fact that freedom of speech come at a premium in some countries and thereby helps to suppress the opinions of users in such places.

The social media giant threatens to terminate the accounts of those who promote hatred against “protected groups” on its platform.

“Certain groups and regimes have wide, bloodshot eyes that behold a great deal of speech they consider ‘hateful’ and worthy of suppression,” Hayward notes.

Some critics have described the new hate speech guidelines as part of efforts by Facebook to gain access into restrictive markets such as those in China and the Middle East.

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