Facebook announced last week it was hiring thousands of staffers for the sole purpose of hunting down hate speech on its platform.
This big move is a natural step for a company that is facing intense pressure from European countries to crack down on this phenomenon. But it begs the question: what does Facebook consider hate speech?
“Our current definition of hate speech is anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their ‘protected characteristics’ — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease,” Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, stated in the company’s Tuesday announcement.
However, Allan admitted, “There is no universally accepted answer for when something crosses the line.”
While Facebook claims they aren’t trying to censor political views in this endeavor, they are clearly going to censor political views judging by their definition.
This hiring spree becomes more important in light of the furor caused by President Trump’s troll tweet Sunday showing him bodyslamming the corporate logo of CNN. Journalists were quick to denounce the message as an “incitement of violence” against the press, and several liberals reported the tweet to Twitter in the vain hope it would get the president banned from the platform.
Fortunately, Twitter did not ban the most powerful man in the world from its site over an edited WWE video. But the riled mob of progressives trying to use dubious readings of speech infractions shows how easily social media can be used as weapons of censorship against people less prominent than Trump.
As if on cue, The New York Times published an op-ed on the same day as Trump’s tweet that demanded extensive censorship on social media platforms in order to make lefties feel more comfortable. Written by the living feminist caricature Lindy West, the column sets up an incredibly dishonest strawman of “free speech defenders” before making the mind-blowing observation the First Amendment is intended to prevent government infringement on speech.
Who the hell knew that?!
With this secret knowledge finally uncovered, West went on to say free speech needs to be protected by suppressing expression she doesn’t like in any space not operated by the U.S. government. Once this is accomplished, America will be a happy place where feminists will never have to see a mean comment ever again. Just as the First Amendment was intended to do.
For all the ridiculous aspects of West’s piss-poor argument, it was given a space in America’s paper of record and does express why so many prominent voices in the media want Facebook and Twitter to crack down on “hate speech.”
Those who want to clamp down on hate speech say it’s to help to protect “marginalized groups” — as West claimed in her column — but that’s just a nice façade for the desire to shut down political opponents. The shrill feminist claims social media allowing so much “hate speech” to go uncensored apparently helped elect Trump in the first place. Thus, we need more controls to prevent that nightmare from happening again.
That argument doesn’t sound like West wants speech suppressed to protect minorities from alleged threats of violence. It just sounds like she wants the world to be her safe space from views she objects to.
Ultimately, “hate speech” isn’t somehow different from free speech. It is free speech, and the words and views that are given that dreaded moniker are why we have a First Amendment. Speech that is inoffensive or popular with the powers that be has no dire need for protection. It’s the views that are deemed offensive or run afoul of the elites that necessitates the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court upheld this intention just a few weeks ago in ruling there was no “hate speech exception” to the First Amendment. “[T]he proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate,’” wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the majority.
And Justice Anthony Kennedy understood what would follow from hate speech laws: “A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all.”
As Facebook implied in its announcement, there is no good way to determine what exactly warrants hate speech designation. But that serious ambiguity doesn’t stop intrusive government bureaucrats and deranged feminists from taking it upon themselves to do the determination. Guess which side of the political aisle they won’t favor in their rulings…
However, there have been a few attempts by the Right to appropriate “hate speech” in an act of political judo. Examples of this kind of appropriation were seen in some of the placards at the recent “Rally Against Political Violence” that declared “free speech ain’t hate speech.” The hate speech meant here is that of the violent anti-Trump rhetoric from the likes of Johnny Depp and Kathy Griffin, not mean comments directed toward feminists.
But this attempt to try to turn around the hate speech cause against the Left is not wise. For one, no matter how much outrage you can churn up against someone like Kathy Griffin, it will still pale against the fury of the Left and European governments that take Facebook’s definition of “attacks on protected characteristics” to heart. For every one actor who gets hit with a hate speech classification for threatening Trump, there will be thousands of average Joes who get arrested or banned from social media for criticizing Islam.
Which side is going to be worse off due to this arrangement?
Hate speech will always be a tool of the Left to use against the Right. Period. That’s why there is no reason to even think of re-purposing it for your own goals.
Let’s hope Facebook and Twitter also become leery of promoting the hate speech nonsense. These private entities are the public forums of our age — that’s why they have an obligation to keep their platforms open to all speech. No matter how much it offends Lindy West.