Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, advocates that hate speech [criticism of Islam] “has no place in our society.” As such, Facebook began implementing what it calls an “Initiative for Civil Courage Online,” to “purge” Europe of all “xenophobic rhetoric.” Xenophobia is defined as “having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.”
The company is allocating $1.09 million to fund non-government organizations dedicated to selectively “curbing online threats” and “hate speech.”
In Europe, a social media blackout could have unintended, and undesirable, consequences– especially about the immediate crisis it is facing because of Islamist migrants. The Mail’s Jasper Hamill writes: “The social network wants to wipe out ‘extremism and hate speech’, but it could end silencing critical debate.” He encourages everyone to “dislike” Facebook and stop using the social media site.
The Mirror posits that Facebook doesn’t make clear whether its initiative meant “Islamic terrorism” or “right wing racism.” And, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “hinted at the social network’s plans to censor people who publish anti-migrant posts.”
But the Scotland Herald’s Catriona Stewart writes, “There’s a type of competitive linguistics that goes alongside this: posts will be sure to say ‘refugees’ instead of ‘migrants.’ They’ll express a belief in the NHS. They will slap down any sniff of conservative sentiment.
“Facebook, it was just announced, is to introduce a new ‘dislike’ button to match the ‘like’ button for statuses.”
Stewart explains that this initiative is characteristic of “behaviour known as “virtue signaling,” which is the process of sharing posts or sentiments that make people feel or look good to others. In this way, she argues that Facebook has already had “a sterilising effect on public discourse” because people are already using “virtue signaling.”
But she also asks, “How many who ‘Welcome Refugees’ would welcome a refugee into their spare room? How can you have open debate when people feel the need to join opinion gangs?”
However, Joe Newby, from ConservativeFiringLine.com notes that Facebook censorship has been going on for “quite some time” — since 2010. He notes that:
- Some Facebook users have been penalized for simply saying “thank you,”
- Another was told her profile picture of a lilac tree was “pornographic,”
- Fox News’ Todd Starnes was banned for a short time for posts that support the NRA, Paula Deen, and Jesus Christ.
- One user was banned for a profile picture that support the NRA, Paula Deen, and Jesus Christ because it “violated its community standards,”
- Another user said his page was yanked after Facebook claimed his picture of the Marine Corps emblem also violated its community standards.
Newby also reported that Dave Gaubatz, author of Muslim Mafia and a specialist in counterterrorism, said in 2014 that he was told Muslim groups are working with Facebook to remove accounts critical of Islam. Shortly after his report was released, Facebook reacted by falsely flagging his article and others mentioning Islam as “unsafe.”
Read more here for more on Facebook censorship.
This article was first published on February 12, 2016.