Mark Zuckerberg To Angela Merkel At UN: Facebook Will Combat Racism And Hate Speech

Don Crothers - Author

Sep. 27 2015, Updated 9:16 p.m. ET

Facebook seems to have a little problem with hate speech. Specifically, that its employees don’t seem to know what it is. While Facebook’s policies state that hate speech is not allowed on the social network, reports are most often discounted; Facebook employees will gladly and promptly delete nudity and violence (including, until recently, breastfeeding mothers) but deny most hate speech reports.

According to a report from CNBC, that may be about to change. At a U.N. luncheon where he was scheduled to speak on Saturday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was overheard talking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a mistakenly-live mic about Facebook’s failure to curtail racism and hate speech in light of the Syrian refugee crisis.

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Earlier in the month, Facebook had promised to clean up racist content on the German version of the site; unsurprisingly, the German government is a tad bit sensitive about their past and the public perception of Germany. At the time, Facebook indicated that they would be partnering with a non-profit group to investigate and remove hate postings.

Meanwhile, it seems Chancellor Merkel still has concerns about Facebook. As per German international news outlet Deutsche Welle, Merkel was overheard asking Zuckerberg about hate speech in regards to the Syrian refugee crisis, to which the Facebook CEO responded that “we need to do some work.”

“Are you working on this?” asked Merkel.


The mic was cut at that point, but it seems clear that Zuckerberg and Facebook are actively working to remove anti-refugee sentiment from their pages.

Of course, this will prompt some talk about free speech and censorship; Facebook comes under fire every time they block content on hate speech grounds, and the call for free speech has become as much a part of bigotry rhetoric as actual hate speech. That said, in spite of its huge user base, Facebook is still a private company and its terms of use are clear; hate speech is not allowed on Facebook and they have a right to enforce that.

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“Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases.

“Organizations and people dedicated to promoting hatred against these protected groups are not allowed a presence on Facebook.”

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Germany has been a leader in taking Facebook to task over hate speech on their platform; earlier in September, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas met with Facebook representatives in Berlin to address hate speech. Maas expressed his disbelief that images deemed “indecent” were removed almost as quickly as they were posted while racist/extremist comments were left untouched after multiple reports.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]


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