Zuckerberg Tells Angela Merkel Facebook Is On The Hate Speech Censorship Case

from the dislike dept

A brief review of the available record shows that Facebook and Germany have always had something of a contentious relationship. Past examples of this have included Germany trying to influence Facebook’s really dumb “real name” policy, Germany trying to get Facebook to drop its facial recognition database, and even Germany attempting to outlaw the “Like” button. The context in most of these instances is a German government perhaps still rather touchy with a sordid, if decades-old, history and its overcorrection on matters of privacy and speech. The latest is no different.

At a recent UN summit, Mark Zuckerberg apparently had a discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Facebook will start getting involved in policing racism and hate speech on the social media network.

“I think we have to work on that,” Zuckerberg told Merkel during their meeting on Saturday on the fringe of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

Facebook has been much criticized in Germany for not doing more to shut down hate speech on its network during the refugee crisis, with Justice Minister Heiko Maas a leading voice calling for better moderation on the site. At a meeting with Maas earlier in September, when the minister demanded faster procedures to get hate comments removed, Facebook agreed to set up a working group to look at the problem.

It’s the age-old question on matters of free speech: how do we handle speech the public generally finds unacceptable? And, to be fair, it’s not the easiest question to discuss, because free speech advocates find themselves within the ranks of some truly horrible people who say some truly horrible things. Racism and bigotry is, of course, not acceptable as a matter of morality and public discourse. But should it be hidden by corporate interests at the request of the government of a free people?

No, it should not. And, when we slide emotion to the side, it’s quite easy to see why not. First, on matters of comments that involve threats or calls to violence, we already have laws on the books (as I assume Germany does as well) to deal with that. Indeed, rather than disappearing the comments from social media, law enforcement would likely want to have those comments on hand should a crime for incitement or menacing have been committed. For charges of racism and hate speech, on the other hand, I would argue that the need for exposure of the bigot outweighs any, if there is any, harm done by the speech. Put another way: if there are racist assbags in the world, do you want to allow them to identify themselves, or shall we allow social media sites to put up a veil so that we can all pretend that everything is right with the world?

Zuckerberg is allowed to do with Facebook as the site’s corporate interests please, but as an American leading a company that can only continue to benefit the world through the free exchange of ideas if the site rests on the principles of free speech, I would hope he might be cautious in what promises he might make that violate those principles.

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Comments on “Zuckerberg Tells Angela Merkel Facebook Is On The Hate Speech Censorship Case”

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42 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“Hate speech” in germany is everything that is against Merkel or the “poor refugees”. Less that 20% of them are woman and less than 5% are children, yet every single report on them shows only these.

There was that hungarian reporter who tripped the guy. The media immediatelly named her, which is illegal. They set up a facebook hate page where people threatened to kill her and someone offered 10k euro for anyone who does it. But this was not hateful enough to be deleted, unlike the dozens of pages that pointed out that this shit is hateful and illegal.

Facebook is all about censorship and pushing agendas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They cant name a criminal. And she didnt do anything illegal, as helping the police is not against the law.

“doesn’t protect freedom of the press like we do”
Hungary isnt Israel, reporters dont get beaten up and their cameras trashed every second day…

Its really disgusting to see what the pro-migrant media does these times. The only thing against their freedom are privacy laws, yet they claim that the government intentionally beats up reporters, which is simply bullshit.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This is the kind of speech that would be labelled hate speech because you’re actively promoting prejudice against migrants. That said, I wouldn’t ban it; we need counter-speech to explain what the problem is: it sucks to live where they come from due to war, etc. Much of this is due to Western foreign policy, which is basically “Sell weapons to both sides and bomb the crap out of ’em.” Would you want to live there? I think not.

With regard to the economic migrants, I’ve yet to hear of anyone lying back and trying to enjoy being poor. Again, that’s down to Western foreign policy. You know those FTAs we keep reading about here on TD? NAFTA, etc.? There are loads of these, the idea being to squeeze what value can be had out of the “partner” (read “poor sucker”) nations via ISDS and IPR. Debt-loading and austerity measures in exchange for development loans, foreign aid used to prop up the most brutal dictators (Hot Air recently had a piece about soldiers being disciplined for interfering with paedophile activities, by which I mean “they tried to put a stop to it”)… don’t get me started.

So next time you take a pop at “the migrants” take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself how complicit you are in helping to create the circumstances that drive them in this direction by encouraging the policies that make them so desperate.

Hint: There are more and better opportunities to create a better life in the West. If we work to make things better for them where they live, they’ll stay there.

Economic migrant here, I moved from Ireland in 1989 to the UK to improve my chances of getting a decent job. That’s why I don’t point fingers. And yes, I would have stayed in Dublin if I’d had better opportunities there.

Klaus says:

Techdirt

I quite like Techdirt’s approach to comments and the community. Let the community decide what is acceptable and what is not, and if a sufficient number of people find a comment unacceptable, they can “disappear” it. If anyone is curious, they can simply click a “show me” button to see what offended.

I find sites that don’t allow profanities (imbd.com) especially annoying because you are supposed to intuitively know what is acceptable or not (ass, dick, crap, gosh-darn-it-to-heck…) else see your comment removed by their delicate admins.

Techdirt’s approach is simple but it works. I haven’t seen it in use anywhere else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt

Well, it’s simple, but it really is some serious “tyranny of the majority” stuff. You really can’t disagree with the Techdirt hivemind to any real degree before your comment gets disappeared by the dissenters.
That said, the hivemind isn’t so strong here as it is on, say, reddit, and there are some pretty ridiculous comments that get disappeared, but Techdirt isn’t a particularly controversial site. Start having serious discussions on the refugee situation in the EU and I’m sure the comments section would be a graveyard of disappeared items as the two sides battled it out.
It also lets Mike and his chums claim they’re not censoring or directing the conversation, while at the same time they’ve got control over the censorship thresholds…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Techdirt

“You really can’t disagree with the Techdirt hivemind to any real degree before your comment gets disappeared by the dissenters.”

This is simply untrue. Comments that seriously disagree with the majority of commenters here are left uncollapsed all the time.

The real problem with the vast majority of the comments that get collapsed is not that they disagreed with anybody, it’s that they are full of vitriol, personal attacks, and outright lies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Techdirt

Comments that seriously disagree with the majority of commenters here are left uncollapsed all the time.

Just to throw a concrete example into the discussion: Whatever seems to disagree with almost everything on TD, but he presents his arguments clearly and without personal attacks. Finding a collapsed Whatever comment is a rarity. (I can’t recall it ever happening, in fact.)

Anonymous Coward says:

If you do not like what someone is saying you are not forced to listen to them, especially on services like Facebook, where you can choose who you listen to. Censorship on the other hand is someone imposing their desires on other people, and what gives such people the right to do that.

Having hate speech out in the open has a moderating effect on the speakers, by including more reasonable voices, while driving it underground usually results in limiting it to the more extreme and possibly activist people who have similar views. Also, driving hate speech underground is more likely to result in violent actions, as the speakers come to believe that that is the only way that their voices will be heard.

John Cressman (profile) says:

As much as I hate it...

As much as I hate some of the more controversial speech, the moment you start to suppress speech is the moment you hand over your own rights… because chances are SOMETHING you want to say will be considered controversial by someone else.

For instance, I’m white with Native American ancestry. If I say the N-word, it’s racist. But if I had African American ancestry… it’s acceptable. Or is it? Who decides?

The problem is the same as the app censorship at Apple… they have these wishy-washy, timey-wimey rules that arbitrarily ban apps because whoever was reviewing it thought it might, possible kinda sorta violate some vaguely worded policy. It’s been problematic for years.

Anonymous Coward says:

The real answer to hate speech

how do we handle speech the public generally finds unacceptable?

The real answer to hate speech or any speech you don’t like is to put your big boy pants on and get over it. People need to quit being so sensitive. Anything someone says that is hateful, hurtful, etc is far more of a reflection on the speaker than the person being spoken too. There is literally nothing you can say to me, about me or about anyone I care about or anything I believe that will hurt me. If you are attempting to say something to me to hurt me it is a poor reflection on you, not me.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: The real answer to hate speech

I think we can dial your sentiment back a bit. I don’t think the answer to hate speech is to “get over it.” I think the answer to hate speech is better, more logical, good speech. We’re all competing on the field of ideas and its important that bad ideas aren’t left lingering or unchallenged.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The real answer to hate speech

DH, “getting over” hate speech is just a part of combating it similar to how you don’t give attention to those who are looking to paid attention to via hate speech (in this context). Your recommendation of an attempt at logical speech is also a part as well, just not the only possible solution.

I’ll let that “good speech” comment slide here as that didn’t come across objective (what exactly is good speech anyway? That’s subjective)

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The real answer to hate speech

“I’ll let that “good speech” comment slide here as that didn’t come across objective (what exactly is good speech anyway? That’s subjective)”

I really do hate that kind of cop out. What it does is to paint morality as some kind of subjective thing that cannot be quantified, discussed logically, or expressed in any kind of scientific terminology, which I think is laughably false. Morality is subject to all the same material laws the rest of our world and philosophy is subject to. Areas of moral ambiguity or areas in which we simply haven’t applied enough thought capital to, or areas where a moral certainty might not exist (areas of which I think there are less in quantity than most people think).

If what I said above is true, than there can certainly be “good speech” as an objective reality. We just need to train our brains to understand how to see morality and goodness in a consequential or even scientific light….

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The real answer to hate speech

I really do hate that kind of cop out. What it does is to paint morality as some kind of subjective thing that cannot be quantified, discussed logically, or expressed in any kind of scientific terminology, which I think is laughably false.

Wow. When did you suddenly start making so much sense? o_0

Having said that, ironically enough I find that “good” is somewhat tricky to define in an objective, definitive sense, but “evil” is dead easy: any act whereby a person places their own interests above the well-being of others to such a degree that they are willing to knowingly cause harm to others in order to achieve their goal is an evil act. Defining “good”, though… what’s the objective opposite of “cause harm to others”? It’s not simple.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The real answer to hate speech

“what’s the objective opposite of “cause harm to others”? It’s not simple.”

The objective opposite is “that action, idea or speech which causes the maximum benefit or happiness to others.” These issues MUST start at the macro level before we talk about the micro, but an objective good is that which benefits the most people in the most quantity while correcting for any harm or negative impact on others.

In other words, it ends up being a math equation. If you can weight the good done to the people concerned while subtracting the weighted (where we can argue about how we weight this), you get a number. Positive numbers are objectively good, negative numbers are objectively bad, and some outcomes can end up more or less good or bad based on their number. How we arrive at that number is insanely complicated, and it never really is a number, but our own intuition, but when we take moral questions down to their bedrock, this process becomes evident.

Take gun control, for instance. Let’s say as a hypothetical we know or have strong reason to believe that outlawing all firearms everywhere in our country will lead to 1000 less deaths per year in the country (I’m not saying this is even remotely true, just a hypothetical). Let’s say we also know that outlawing these guns will have a negative impact on hunters, on people who might need them to protect themselves (and may indeed be counted as deaths from crime if gun bans were enacted), and that there is a loss of freedom, however great or small that freedom might be. The moral question is does value of the negatives outweigh the positives of the 1000 lives, understanding we have to take into account who those 1000 lives are, how they live, how, if at all, they contribute to their own deaths, etc. It’s complicated, but the process is simply a weight of benefit versus harm.

nasch (profile) says:

Free speech

Indeed, rather than disappearing the comments from social media, law enforcement would likely want to have those comments on hand should a crime for incitement or menacing have been committed.

You would think so, but the history of sites like Craigslist and Backpage indicate otherwise.

For charges of racism and hate speech, on the other hand, I would argue that the need for exposure of the bigot outweighs any, if there is any, harm done by the speech.

While I agree with you, it seems Germany has a different view of the subject.

Anonymous Coward says:

Censorship is hate speech

So when people expose the truth about how Muslim migrants have proudly acknowledged their part in criminal activities, including but not limited to raping European women, it’s considered “racist” and “hateful.” When people expose that Europeans are being displaced from their homes to make way for immigrant housing, it’s considered “racist” and “hateful.”

The censorship being wrought on the anti-immigration speech is itself hate speech, as it is expressing hate against white people.

We need more real talk in the world, and none of this PC garbage that only serves the interests of the powerful. The liberal elite, the likes of which include Merkel and Zuckerberg, are scared of dissent and uprising because they are the ones who will benefit the most from inundating the Western world with Muslims and Africans. For instance, feminism has killed birth rates in the Western world, so countries are importing Third World migrants to boost their populations.

ShillMan says:

It's Just Facebook

Why are people so convinced racism and bigotry will be swept completely under the rug in some inconvenient truth-type conspiracy just because it disappears from your Facebook feed? I’m sorry, is my Facebook feed now the ONLY form of communication I have with the outside world? What is the mindset here? Really think censoring universally held opinions on Facebook will ACTUALLY censor that speech elsewhere?

You can make the claim that wanting something other than a zero-sum solution is “getting emotional”, but that in itself seems like a very emotional argument — zero-sum arguments like “censorship is always wrong” are silly too. Anytime someone claims something other than death and taxes is absolute, it’s pure folly.

Logic says that Facebook doesn’t run our lives (it’s just a website), and the decisions they make on their website have few if any repercussions in the real world (it’s just a website). Facebook is by and large crappy ads, terrible opinions, and mountains of stupidity (it’s just a website) — what exactly are we trying to save here? Does it really matter what Facebook does anyway? Aren’t they just a highly overvalued BBS when you get down to it?

Because when someone posts a shit-link from a shitty site that’s not the same as speech. That’s an idiot parroting a link. NOT censorship. If someone makes a personal statement and it gets erased for no reason, that is closer to censorship.

People are fighting to protect their free speech, but somehow are really convinced that fight will be won on Facebook? Come again?

If I offended anyone, it doesn’t mean I hate you.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: It's Just Facebook

Why are people so convinced racism and bigotry will be swept completely under the rug in some inconvenient truth-type conspiracy just because it disappears from your Facebook feed?

Where did anyone say that?

Because when someone posts a shit-link from a shitty site that’s not the same as speech.

So repeating someone else’s speech isn’t speech? I disagree. That’s also a dangerous position, because if that isn’t speech, that means suppressing it isn’t censorship.

If someone makes a personal statement and it gets erased for no reason, that is closer to censorship.

If someone makes a statement of any kind, personal or otherwise, and it gets erased by an authority, whether for a reason or not, that is absolutely censorship. Not just closer to censorship.

People are fighting to protect their free speech, but somehow are really convinced that fight will be won on Facebook?

Perhaps it can’t be won on Facebook, but it can certainly be lost there.

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