Declaration Of Independence Flagged As Hate Speech By Facebook Bots

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Facebook issued an apology to Texas newspaper The Liberty County Vindicator after labeling the Declaration of Independence hate speech. According to the Hill, the newspaper posted the document in small threads on their page in honor of the Fourth of July, with the threads running from June 24 and ending on July 4. The newspaper was notified that a portion of their thread, which contained paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration, would be taken down due to Facebook’s strict “standards on hate speech.” The text in question includes the sentence, “He has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare is an undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”

The Vindicator’s managing editor, Casey Stinnett, wrote in an article addressing the incident that “It is a very great irony that the words of Thomas Jefferson should now be censored in America.” Once the post was removed, Stinnett and his team attempted to reach out to Facebook to address the removal. At first, Stinnett noted, it seemed as though “the folks at Facebook [don’t] want anyone contacting them.” After a thorough search of their page, however, he was able to contact them and send a message about the thread.

Facebook quickly restored the text, according to Newsweek.

“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account.”

Stinnett acknowledged that the takedown of the post was likely an automated action rather than something based on a review of the post. He thanked the social networking site for taking quick action to do so.

“We never doubted Facebook would fix it, but neither did we doubt the usefulness of our fussing about it a little,” Stinnett said.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has come under fire for their policies. For years there has been frustration on the part of Facebook users because of how their “community standards” are enforced. According to USA Today, these policies are often “unclear and inconsistently enforced.” In response to these complaints, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Management, Monika Bickert, wrote a blog that detailed their community standards and the new appeals process, which gives users more ability to protest posts that have been taken down or kept up despite the seemingly hateful rhetoric.