Facebook is ending race-blind hate speech moderation and will begin policing hate speech directed at black Americans, Muslims, multi-racial Americans, Jewish people and LGBTQ people more aggressively than hate speech directed at white Americans, according to the Washington Post.
The “WoW Project” is aimed at automatically detecting hate speech that is “the worst of the worst,” internal documents about the project that were obtained by the Washington Post said. The project will re-engineer Facebook’s automated moderation system to try and get better at detecting hateful language aimed at minority groups. (RELATED: Facebook Has Flagged Every Single Trump Post Since Election Day)
Facebook’s moderation system will now prioritize removing certain statements over others by assigning them a numerical score based on how harmful they are perceived to be, the Washington Post reported. For example, the statement “gay people are disgusting” would be a higher priority for removal than “men are pigs,” according to the Post.
We’ve made progress in important areas such as hate speech, child exploitation imagery, and posts about illegal drugs and firearm sales but we still have more to do. We’ll continue to invest in people and systems to combat harmful content on our platforms.
— Facebook (@Facebook) November 13, 2019
Comments about “whites,” “men,” and “Americans” are now considered “low-sensitivity” by Facebook’s technology, meaning they are less likely to be removed automatically. Comments against these groups are still considered hate speech and can be reported to Facebook, but deprioritizing hateful language against certain groups has resulted in about 10,000 fewer posts being removed per day, the documents obtained by the Post showed.
In the past, Facebook has removed terms directed at white people at a greater frequency than other types of hate speech. During the nationwide protests against the police killing of George Floyd, the top three terms Facebook automatically removed were “white trash,” a gay slur, and “cracker.” Meanwhile, slurs against black people, Jewish people, and transgender people were taken down less frequently, internal documents first reported by NBC News showed.
Facebook’s employees expressed disdain for the company’s policies over the summer. Employees were angry that Facebook left up comments made by President Donald Trump that some considered to be racially divisive while the George Floyd protests were going on. Black employees expressed their frustrations during a meeting with senior executives, and more than a dozen employees quit in protest of Facebook’s hate speech policies, the Post reported. (RELATED: Facebook Removes ‘Stop The Steal’ Group Over ‘Worrying Calls For Violence’)
A boycott in July by Facebook’s advertisers over civil rights issues increased the pressure on Facebook to change their policies, according to the Washington Post. A civil rights report by independent auditors also slammed the company for their hate speech policies, which they called a “tremendous setback” in protecting marginalized groups. An African American manager filed a civil rights complaint in July about alleged racial bias in recruiting and hiring.
Facebook responded that it is investigating the claims of racism and said that it takes the allegations seriously. They have also pledged to diversify their hiring practices and leadership teams, ban certain content such as white nationalism and Holocaust denial and increase transparency about their hate speech detection technology.