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Facebook Doesn’t Enforce Its Own Standards On Hate Speech

Words by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Leadership & Transparency
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Hate speech and the Internet can go hand-in-hand, including on Facebook. It recently came to my attention that Facebook does not enforce its own standards regarding hate speech. While scrolling through posts on my Facebook feed, I came across a post about an anti-Armenian group. The name of the said group was “F--k Armenia.” The posts in the group were very derogatory of Armenia and Armenians. Using “F--k Armenia” as a search term turned up about 10 other groups with that name.

There is a context to the proliferation of anti-Armenian Facebook groups that many may not know. This year on April 24, Armenians worldwide will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government. About 1.5 million Armenians, or 3 out of every 4 Armenians living under the Ottoman Turkish empire, were murdered. To this day the Turkish government refuses to recognize the genocide and continues its campaign of denial, even going to the extreme of stating that Armenians murdered Turks.

There are over 11,000 members of the Facebook group “I am a Descendant of a Survivor of the Armenian Genocide,” and judging by the comments on the post regarding the anti-Armenian page, many, including me, reported the anti-Armenian group. What we received back from Facebook was the following message:

"Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the Page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards."

Looking at the hate speech section of Facebook’s Community Standards, it becomes apparent that the anti-Armenian groups are considered hate speech by those very standards:
"Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition."

Anti-Armenian groups are not the only racist groups on Facebook. There are also groups called “F--k Mexico” and “F--k Azerbaijan.” I reported every hate group I came across and received the same message that I posted above.

Only one page was removed by Facebook, and that is the initial anti-Armenian page I learned about. Many others also reported it. Clearly, it takes a good amount of pressure for Facebook to take down racist sites and adhere to its own standards.

Image credit: Master OSM 2011

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman