Facing Advertiser Revolt, Facebook Changes Hate Speech Policy

The company's new approach is closer to that of Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019.
Anthony Quintano/Creative Commons

At its best, social media offers its users a way to connect with their friends and meet new people with whom they share interests. At its worst, social media can help spread disinformation that erodes trust in public institutions and has far-reaching consequences in the physical world. Some of the largest social media companies have begun taking steps to reduce the harm that can be done via their platform — with one notable example being Twitter flagging a Donald Trump tweet for questionable content.

While Twitter has been more aggressive about enforcing its own policies, Facebook has historically taken a more restrained role. Last year, the company announced that it would permit hate speech from politicians. Why? Apparently because such comments are considered newsworthy.

Now, the social network has announced a reversal of this policy. Writing at The Guardian, Kari Paul notes that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a revised approach to hate speech and posts related to voting:

Facebook said it would take an approach similar to that of Twitter, labeling posts that may violate its policies but are allowed to remain on the platform because they are deemed newsworthy.

The platform will also include a link to its voting information center on any post with information about voting, including by politicians: “This is not a judgement of whether the posts themselves are accurate,” Zuckerberg said.

This decision from Facebook comes as a number of high-profile advertisers have taken a step back from the technology company. This includes companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever and Verizon. It’s a marked shift from business as usual — but given that the status quo has led to some worrying places, that’s not a bad thing.

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