The Guy Who Wrote Facebook’s Content Rules Says Its Politician Hate Speech Exemption Is ‘Cowardice’

from Wired

Last Tuesday, Facebook vice president Nick Clegg announced that Facebook was going to give politicians more leeway than other users in using offensive speech, and their assertions would not be fact-checked. That set Dave Willner over the edge. Two nights later, Willner posted a long explanation—on Facebook, of course—attacking the policy. The 35-year-old tech worker described the social network’s new stance as “foolish, wrong, and a significant betrayal of the original democratizing ideals of Facebook.”

That essay is notable not just for its well-argued points but for who wrote it: Dave Willner is Facebook’s former head of content standards. Over 10 years ago, as part of the team monitoring content on the nascent social network, he took an ad hoc list of no-no’s and helped create a document that is the foundation for the company’s content standards. (Though the current version is longer and more detailed, Willner says Facebook’s hate speech rules haven’t changed that much in the last decade. “What has changed is the willingness of politicians to say things that are clearly racist, sexist, etc.,” he says.) Willner left Facebook in 2013 and heads community policy for Airbnb. His wife Charlotte, who worked with him at Facebook, heads Pinterest’s trust and safety team—making Willner half of online speech moderation’s First Couple.

More here.

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21 Responses to The Guy Who Wrote Facebook’s Content Rules Says Its Politician Hate Speech Exemption Is ‘Cowardice’

  1. Steven Evans October 4, 2019 at 10:46 am #

    I am all for free speech. I believe any form of censorship takes away from our First Amendment rights in some way. That being said, I do understand why companies like Facebook would not want offensive content on their platforms. And since they have terms and conditions for when you sign up, they have the right to control your speech to a degree (in the same way that schools prohibit students from using language that they deem offensive). I have a problem with the fact that Facebook gives more leeway to a certain group than others. If they are going to prohibit complete free speech, at least do that to every user of the platform. Or instead, give every user the leeway that they supposedly give to politicians.

    On another note, I find it absurd that there is a “Dangerous Speech Project” as mentioned in the article. Nobody can force anyone to do anything just with what they type on Facebook. You can type out all the fire and fury you want, but that social media screen does not hold a gun to anybody and make them commit violent or dangerous acts.

  2. Connor G October 4, 2019 at 2:01 pm #

    I strongly agree with Dave Wilner in his position regarding Facebook’s speech content policy. To allow politicians more aggressive/offensive speech privileges sets a very dangerous precedent for the Facebook community. These politicians are able to encourage a negative shift in the status quo, one that moves back towards racism and bigotry in the United States, solely due to the fact that they are politicians. Furthermore, this decision to grant politicians more leniency regarding their speech on Facebook is one that currently goes against Facebook’s content policy, which stated that everyone would be regulated the same way, whether you are a teenager, the President of the United States, a Republican, a Democrat, etc. Currently, Facebook believes that it is benefiting its user community by allowing the views of politicians to be heard by the people.

    In disagreeing with this position, I feel as though it is hard to overlook that Facebook is doing an injustice by its user community. It has two options currently: either hold everyone to the same, lenient standard that it is now allowing for politicians, or regulate its content the way it has been, especially regarding hateful and offensive material. This new looser regulation for politicians can give rise to a strong divide in the United States by allowing those with extreme views to follow and listen to the extreme views of a politician over social media. The problem with this is that when a person watches a political leader speaking hurtful and offensive comments, not only do those comments then become normalized in the eyes of the average citizen, but it becomes acceptable in their minds to speak their thoughts out loud.

    Finally, not fact-checking politicians for accuracy and veracity in their statements on Facebook sets yet another dangerous precedent. In an age when “fake news” is a term, seeing leaders from the local to federal level give skewed statistics or completely inaccurate information will blur the lines between right and wrong. A principle that this country has survived on is the free-flow on TRUE information. The way that extremism has come to power and maintained power traditionally is through the manipulation of the media and of information allowed to be viewed by its citizens, such as in North Korea. Allowing politicians to potentially do the wrong thing is dangerous for the political climate of the country.

  3. James Koerner October 4, 2019 at 6:10 pm #

    After reading this article, I think the most important thing is that there needs to be a fine line between speech that promotes hate and speech that people just don’t simply agree on. Facebook and other social medias should certainly ban people that incite violence on others or openly express to the public that certain groups of people are inferior. That being said, someone having a different political opinion than someone else doesn’t make their speech “hateful” necessarily. What Facebook has been doing as far as banning certain people and accounts for the content that they post is a very dangerous precedent, and as a country, we need to be worried that tech giants like Facebook can influence what we see on its platform and limit certain things that the company simply doesn’t agree with. It is without a doubt an infringement on our first amendment to not allow certain people to freely express their thoughts and ideas. Now, as I said, someone that is saying that certain people don’t deserve the same rights as others certainly needs to be taken down. However, people that are able to censor others need to stop censoring people based off what they feel is wrong and start censoring people based off what’s actually wrong.
    What Nick Clegg proposed which was to give politicians more leeway in using speech that could be deemed as hateful over regular users was wrong. I certainly don’t believe that politicians should be granted more privileges on social media than a normal citizen would. No one deserves more rights or privileges simply because they are a politician. Willner did a great job attacking the policy and saying that America can’t do such a thing. Regardless of political status, job title, social status, age, race, gender, and all else, everyone should be held to the same standards when it comes to expressing themselves.
    What Facebook seems to be doing is blocking conservative view points more than anything else. According to Fox News, Facebook has blocked various right-wing points such as a pro-life ad days before the March for Life. After the Fourth of July, a post was censored for “hate speech,” when it was really just the Declaration of Independence. This has been a common theme for social media platforms, in particular Facebook, to block conservative accounts. Again, this is a dangerous precedent to be setting, as it is limiting the First Amendment for certain people that don’t have the same viewpoints of the tech giant. At times, the censorship has been necessary for far-right speech. The article mentions that it has censored former KKK grand wizard David Duke, which is certainly appropriate for someone that posts something that incites radical ideas. However, the majority of the material censored are not radical or extreme, but are just viewpoints that conflict with others. Facebook should not be dictating the content that people see simply because they don’t like it.
    As for President Trump, we cannot hold him above the law either. The article mentions that they wouldn’t want to censor Trump because they believe people should see what he has to say, regardless of what he is saying. If President Trump were to incite violence on social media, I agree that his post should be taken down, and measures should be taken against him. This goes back to what I was saying before, that politicians should not be held above the law because of their job title.

  4. Kevin Orcutt October 4, 2019 at 7:53 pm #

    Facebook has been the prime real estate for a toxic environment brought upon by the company itself. This is not created by the users, but in my opinion those who run Facebook. The website was created so that many users could get together and talk to one another about anything. These conversations could be as trivial as what someone was eating for breakfast to activists trying to relay a message to the world. The platform allowed anyone to speak their mind no matter what it was as long as it wasn’t a threat to someone or things related to harsh bullying. Over the years those principles changed. Informed members of society started noticing that there was a trend starting to occur among the site. Right leaning individuals were getting censored and posts removed for no apparent reason. Nothing bad could have been said in the comment, but it would have been removed if it did not fit the agenda of the left leaning company that is Facebook. They started to allow censorship to fit what they wanted people to hear which is not what the website should be for. That allows people to get brainwashed by posts that are not true, but they are the only opinion on there. I think that it is a great idea that they are removing a lot of censorship of politicians. Politicians should be able to speak their entire mind to the people because they represent us and act according to what the people want. If they are not able to effectively communicate to the people than what good is it to have them. A great example is President Trump. An American society has never been more informed about what the president is doing at every moment because he posts it online no matter what it is. This is one of the best things for the people and allowing more leeway as to what he can say is never bad. If anything, for people against him, they can wait for him to say something they don’t like and try to pin it against him like they always do, so i’d assume they should like this too. Only reason they might not is because they are afraid he won’t say anything bad which means they are wrong.

  5. Nia Carrasco October 4, 2019 at 8:40 pm #

    Last Tuesday, Facebook vice president Nick Clegg announced that social media giant, Facebook, was going to give politicians more freedom than other users in using offensive speech, and that their posts on the social media site would not be fact-checked like that of other users. This policy was enraging for most people including Dave Willner, Facebook’s former head of content standards. He wrote that Facebook’s new policy was, “foolish, wrong, and a significant betrayal of the original democratizing ideals of Facebook.” In the post, Willner brought up a key point that the social network’s stance on hate speech hasn’t changed much in the past ten years, but it is the willingness of politicians to say outwardly racist and sexist things that has seen a high rise as of recent.
    Facebook has agreed to remove anything that promotes violence or could cause harm to the public, but Willner believes that is not enough. No matter who those threatening comments come from, a politician or a bigot civilian, any form of hate speech can create a violent and hateful atmosphere in communities all across the country. Willner’s post was created for his friends only, solely for that fact that he wanted to stir up a scholarly discussion amongst his colleagues. Willner’s colleague Andrew Bosworth, vice-president of AR/VR of Facebook, however, took a different stance on the matter. “I just feel you aren’t paying enough respect to the newsworthiness case,” he commented, “I’m not convinced the horror of the speech is greater than the horror of it going unnoticed.”
    Bosworth has a point, and as much as I disagree with one, limiting civilians’ freedom of speech, and two, granting politicians access to say whatever they wish out of fear, I see his side. If we didn’t know politician’s true stance on matters like this and how they truly feel towards certain groups of people, how are we supposed to make an educated decision on who we vote into office. It would be impossible. While yes, the freedom of hate speech that politicians now have can be scary, I think it is better to know what type of leaders we have running this country, this way we can really push towards progressive change and leave the hate and bigotry in the past.

  6. Shamar Kipp October 6, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

    After reading the article, I think this decision by Facebook is a double-edged sword. I do find it funny how some argue that spewing “hate/offensive” can be called a privilege. Dave Wilner, who has a very notable stance since he was Facebook’s prior head of content standards, states that any form of offensive speech can lead to a toxic upheaval of a group of people at any given time and create a hateful environment. Facebook should hold the same standards to every user equally. It is obvious that a random racist, sexist, or hate-filled individual posting offensive content online will not have the same effect on society as a politician posting the same thing, but the fact that a politician can now have some sort of right/passageway to say these things and not others is clearly unfair. But this is why I suggest this move by Facebook is a double edged sword. A politician is someone who is a elected by the people who is in theory “for the people”. To bring up Andrew Bosworth’s stance, vice-president of AR/VR of Facebook, that Wilner is just not seeing the “newsworthy” part of the decisions made by Facebook is very crucial. The freedom of a politician to post whatever they want and word it however they want is a very powerful tool for the American society. It gives the TRUE insight of what that person in an elite position thinks. That is why I believe Twitter is winning the social media “trophy” amongst the younger generation because of the freedom presented and provided in posting. Facebook filtering the words and thoughts of their users in order for the audience to only see what they approve of is not right. As stated in the article, President Trump posted a clearly denigrating post about Muslims which was never taken down, but a Pulitzer Prize winning photo of children fleeing a US napalm strike was taken down because of “nudity”. All in all I believe this move by Facebook can be used as a great tool for citizens to scope out and vote for leaders that are truly “for the people”. It will help us be more informed of who is running this country and help us give a more valuable vote when the time comes.

  7. Ryan L October 8, 2019 at 5:25 pm #

    This article caught my attention because of the impactful word “cowardice” in the title. Cowardice is a strong word to use describing an action of a company, so I figured this article must have some juicy information in it. The article did not disappoint. This article involves a new policy that Facebook just instituted, giving politicians more leeway than all other normal users on hate speech. It also speaks about the reaction of Dave Willner, former head of content standards at Facebook. Needless to say, he disagreed with their decision, he did call them cowards after all. While the policy is wrong on many fronts, my two biggest issues with it are the special rights being given to a certain small group of people, and the allowing of hate speech at all.
    To expand on my first issue with this policy, since when is it permissible to give a certain group extra privileges? Equal rights and equal opportunity are issues that we as a society have been working tirelessly to improve every since the civil rights movement. Suddenly, now we are allowing politicians special rights. This seems like the kind of action that would not and should not even make it out to the public, and would normally have been stopped internally by Facebook’s legal council. Well, somehow, it made it out, and is now in full effect allowing politicians (and only politicians) to say things on Facebook that would be immediately removed if they were said by any normal person. I can see no possible explanation from Facebook on why this policy is a good one that would make logical sense. The company has also created another issue for itself: who counts as a politician and who doesn’t? This is an issue that the company will likely have major issues with in the future, as they will need to make a cutoff somewhere, and the people who miss that cutoff and feel they are deserving politicians will not be happy.
    On the hate speech side of things, many other issues come to mind. I understand freedom of speech, and how that is a right given to us, but I don’t think it is ethical for a company like Facebook to allow it on their platform. The whole idea of social media is to be able to spread your ideas and achievements to many people very easily. This is great when you are posting your new job, or your first child… but hate speech? Definitely not. Even further, Facebook says they will not fact check the hate speech either, which just makes the issue even worse. Now instead of just hate speech, politicians are allowed to hate on people with information that is totally and completely fabricated. The whole situation really makes me wonder about the future of social media. I have personally removed all social media from my device because of toxic content, and after seeing this policy, it only seems to be getting worse. I agree with Dave Willner, and think if this policy is allowed to stay, it will set a dangerous precedent for all media and online content, and turn the happy exciting world of social media into the toxic, deadly wild west.

  8. Nicholas A.P. October 11, 2019 at 4:45 pm #

    It is my personal belief that all kinds of speech anywhere on the internet should be afforded the full protection of the First Amendment. I think these new rules set up by Facebook are entirely arbitrary, and quite frankly, ridiculous. I agree with Willner that there ought not be a special exemption for politician’s on Facebook. I think that Facebook should either apply their standards to everyone or allow all users to engage in “hate speech.” I put “hate speech” in quotes because it is just another form of speech, protected by the First Amendment as per the unanimous decision in Matal v. Tam, in which Justice Kennedy wrote for the court “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. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.”(1) Aside from the obvious conclusion — that limitations placed on “hate speech” would provide an avenue for the government to further curtail free speech — it is my opinion that it’s very important that we allow people to express hateful thoughts. The logic behind my opinion is that it makes it easier for sensible members of society to identify who the dangerous people are, thus avoiding them, and denying them entry to public offices with the power of our voices and votes. That is why I have a particular problem with Facebook’s inequitable application of their code of conduct. They should apply it in an egalitarian manner, or better yet, not at all. To make their policy even more subjective, they even will define who qualifies as a politician. I believe a reasonable person would define a politician as someone who is either currently in or running for office. I fully expect Facebook to tailor this element of the policy to suit their arbitrary desires, especially when they plan to take into account the “loftiness” of someone’s position and the newsworthiness of their statement. So, not only is Facebook’s new policy altogether arbitrary, it is also a popularity contest. If one wishes to hear free speech and enjoy their freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, I’d urge them to steer clear of creating a Facebook account, as it is possible that doing so in great numbers might cause Facebook to change their policies so as to foster free speech, not stunt it. As in the case of the Pulitzer Prize-winning image, it is clear Facebook’s criterion for determining whether or not a post is allowed to stay is not as steadfast as they’d have people believe. It seems to me that if there is enough of an outcry from the public, they will simply roll over. After all, Facebook’s power is derived from its user-base, so to make a change, users will have to collectively take a stand on this matter.

    (1)https://www.oyez.org/cases/2016/15-1293

  9. Anthony Whelan October 11, 2019 at 4:57 pm #

    I firmly believe that people should have the right to express their opinions on whatever platform they choose to convey their message, but I also understand that Facebook has policies users agree to abide by to use the site. My main issue with this decision is that Facebook is only exempting politicians from their rules regarding hate speech. I agree with Dave Willner’s sentiment that this choice makes politicians a “privileged class” on the platform, which I do not think is conducive to a social platform where everybody has equal footing to express their views. I think Facebook should be able to censor content they believe could incite anger or violence towards certain groups of people, but Facebook needs to clearly identify what constitutes as hate speech and be indiscriminate in their censorship.
    I also agree with Andrew Bosworth’s argument that politicians should be able to speak openly because it is important to know exactly what our politicians believe in before we vote. Additionally, as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pointed out, allowing the President to post freely on Twitter enables the public to keep a record of his views and stances on issues that people can reference to decide if their views align with his. I also commend Willner for speaking out against this issue, despite still having strong ties with Facebook. Often times, people do not speak out about issues they see when it could affect their interests. A very recent example of this is the NBA strongly urging players and coaches to not speak out about the protesters in Hong Kong because of the league’s business ties with China. Still, Willner acknowledged Facebook’s decision contradicted their beliefs and chose to speak out, which I find commendable.

  10. Walter Dingwall October 11, 2019 at 6:20 pm #

    The world is not just black and white; I guess the world never really was. Maybe there should be regulations by Facebook regarding what type of messages are being spread with the intent of breeding hatred. The platform of Facebook is not the same as a soapbox. The First Amendment protects free speech, no matter the intent, so, anyone could walk any street, at their own risk, spouting the information that could spark rallies and lynch mobs. Facebook compared to this method is the difference between an advertisement in the Yellow Pages, in 2019, and a massive digital billboard in Times Square. However, by censoring politics, Facebook would be putting the public at a potential risk.
    Politicians are in a special standing that so often comes with the wishes of the people that said politicians demonstrate some transparency. The people want to know what this singularity has alerted them about and how it is going to affect their lives. The people have their say as to how politicians may go forward governing or campaigning or whether they will maintain office. It is in the peoples’ interests to know that their respective politicians are holocaust deniers or hold great prejudice against minorities. With this knowledge, better judgement may be made by voters and those contributing to campaigns. If these ideologies were withheld from the public, some politicians may slip into positions of power with intentions beyond those of the people.
    Dave Willner’s concern of Facebook’s action to allow greater leniency to politicians, as stated in Steve Levy’s article, is unreasonable. By letting politicians reveal themselves as prejudice or inconsistent with other modern, social standards, the people are more aware of their environment. With this information, investigators and organizations acting for the peoples’ true interests may pull evidence that certain politicians must be stopped, or those associated with said politician may be of suspect. If anything, all hate speech, that does not intend to spawn violence (in a way Facebook would qualify as such), should be open to posting on Facebook. By making the existence of hatred known, the resistance against hatred may develop. This is the evolution of resistance. Just as bacteria mutates to become stronger against antibiotics – and vice versa – anti-hate peoples may fight hate speech with greater knowledge of its presence. One cannot fight what they do not know exists.
    During the 2016 Presidential Election, Facebook’s systems let in Russian hackers to direct voter traffic in favor President Trump, spreading disinformation from a foreign state. This is an honest place for Facebook to allocate preventative measures. Willner and his agreeing congregation should not be so against Facebook for allowing a little more transparency in American politics , and, rather, they should be glad that Facebook is trying to keep the power to influence American politics held with America. The alternative is so much farther away from the American peoples’ interest.

  11. Mikaela Battaglia October 11, 2019 at 8:19 pm #

    This article speaks to the very injustices that ravage throughout our country daily. By allowing politicians to be able to have fully free speech (except for legitimate threats), while monitoring and taking down normal people’s opinions and posts is not fair and infringes on civil liberties. I do not think that politicians should be able to be exempt from what they say and post, because those very posts are able to sway their audience heavily. Even if a post does not explicitly mention harmful actions, the words of politicians are all too powerful, and their audiences may take something not meant as dangerous and act on it in a physical manner. There are content rules set in place on social media platforms for a reason, so everyone is treated equally in what they are allowed to say. This is because of users cyber bullying, making threats, or posting explicit content. It is heavily unfair that a certain group of people are able to have, essentially, a full freedom of speech, while normal users are not.
    Another debate that this article brings into question is who is then to be considered a “politician”? Since FaceBook is a worldwide company, would these freedoms of speeches then be granted to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the head of the Taliban? Or, to the head of the Ku Klux Klan, whom consider themselves a political party? And who exactly has the right to say who a politician is or not? There are many gray areas to this new FaceBook policy that are going to see heavy backlash from its users and especially, Dave Willner. Other countries have different standards to who are considered politicians, and if theirs are regulated while some others are not, then they may find themselves suing FaceBook for negligence of their political voice.
    Although FaceBook is only doing this to appease the politicians who are “threaten(ing) to regulate or even break up the company”, sooner or later politicians will not be the only ones treated with this privilege. In my opinion, I do not think it will be long until wealthy people who want their voice heard begin to pay FaceBook large sums of money to be able to utilize this same privilege. Or, maybe not even pay. FaceBook may start allowing celebrities and people who are considered a higher status to be able to speak freely because they are part of that same community.

  12. Max Nitzberg October 11, 2019 at 8:57 pm #

    Before reading the article, I knew about Facebook already having established rules to protect against hate speech and offensive content. I am a strong believer in free speech and I understand why a company like Facebook would want to disallow content like hate speech. The problem I have is that Facebook is updating its policies to allow Politicians to be exempt from some of their hate speech restrictions. I agree completely with Dave Willner that, “allowing hate speech—whether it’s from a politician or a private citizen white supremacist—can create a dangerous atmosphere.” If Facebook wants to make restrictions to hate speech then they should apply to everyone who uses their platform. A politician who posts hate speech causes the same, if not worse impact as anyone else posting hate speech. Facebook should not be allowed to pick and choose who is exempt of their policies and should treat all their users to the same standard. I hope Facebook listens to their former employee, Willner’s objection to their politician exemption.

  13. Danielle Blanco October 12, 2019 at 9:25 am #

    I was confused when i first read the title because I could not believe that Facebook would allow this so this gave me the motivation to read this article because I needed to see the guideline behind this new update. I agree with those mentioned in the article that this new update, especially where our president in known for what he posts on twitter.
    Facebook and other social media sites has always monitored what people post. They looking for derogatory remarks, racism, bullying, or anything inappropriate under their guidelines. You can also report someone’s post if you believe that it has violated their acceptable guidelines. The Constitution allows freedom of speech but Facebook creates a safe environment for their users. With the new update, they are willing to make the exception for when it comes to politicians. There are many negative effects if this update were to put in place and stay. One negative effect is that Facebook is not create an equal platform for everyone and is showing other users that they are willing to ignore the rules for important figures. This gives politicians the idea that they can say whatever they want on Facebook, even if its negative towards a group of people, simply because they can. This is also give politicians more confidence to say these remarks on another platform since it seems accepted on others. Another issue is that many groups of people may feel unsafe on Facebook if they believe that a politicians post is coming at their group of people. Politicians are also very influential and gather supporters very quickly if those people have the same beliefs as them. Many will not feel comfortable using facebook after this. Also, other users will start to pot the same way as politicians because they see what their leaders are posting and will see it as acceptable. I believe that many users will stop using Facebook or use it less frequently because people want to go on social media to stay in touch with friends, not to read negative remarks by politicians.
    This update will give politicians a bigger platform to say what they believe in to try and gain a following and get votes. However, bending the rules for politicians is unfair to others and should not be accepted. There should be a set of rules in place and show that no one is above the rules.

  14. Joe Antonucci October 12, 2019 at 4:33 pm #

    It has been said that the overuse of the phrase “hate speech” will eventually diminish its meaning, to the point where it eventually carries no weight anymore.

    I am of the opinion that we reached that point years ago, but it is more obvious now than ever. I consider myself the strongest opponent of big tech companies, whether it be due to their censorship practices and denial of free speech, or their infringements on the privacy rights of their users, but I must say that Facebook’s idea here is not a bad one.

    In his critique of the new policy, Dave Willner makes a hefty amount of statements, most of which are based on ridiculous presumptions.

    Firstly, Willner clearly believes that President Trump is some sort of rampant racist, sexist person who should have his online content removed. It is already clear at this point that Mr. Willner’s warped definition of “racist, sexist” or “mean” is a result of his weak and easily offended personality.

    Second, Willner operates under the assumption that, in some universe, words are responsible for causing violence. It is generally agreed upon that ‘fighting words’ or explicit calls to violence may play a role in causing actual violence, but that is not the narrow definition Willner operates with. His interpretation of violence-inspiring words is much, much broader, the extent of which he does not specify in his critique of Facebook’s new policy.

    We know that, beyond the narrow definition I laid out above, words are in no way culpable when violence occurs, just like when a gun is not responsible for a shooting, or when the new Joker movie is not responsible for some terrorist attack. When I read Willner’s response, I see a fear-mongering elitist who wants the people of this country to willingly forfeit their right to speak, as if we are nothing beyond subservient animals who need to be protected from the harmful effects of our own words. He would much prefer to take away our First Amendment online, than to actual tackle the issues we are facing as a country in a way that makes sense.

    Thirdly, Willner argues that politicians are made to be a privileged class by this new policy. I find this claim to be ridiculous for several reasons. Do we, the voters, not want honest politicians? Do we not want politicians who are going to speak their minds, or do we want them to hide the truth and sugarcoat it in a deceptive way? Many politicians are not upfront about their honest beliefs anyway, but if they fear being banned from social media for sharing a policy proposal that may be deemed “hateful” it will just make it harder for us as voters to see what is happening and potentially hold them accountable. Politicians are held to a much higher standard too, especially nowadays where a funny photo you took part in back when you were in college can completely destroy your career.

    My only issue with this new Facebook policy, in fact, is that it does not extend to everyone. A massively powerful tech oligarchy that controls the most widespread avenues of information sharing should concern everybody. People must realize that as soon as we give the elites a degree of control over what can and cannot be said, they will take it and run with it until we have nothing left to say in our defense.

  15. Nicole Shubaderov October 15, 2019 at 3:51 pm #

    The fact that Facebook is now allowing Politicians to have fewer restrictions on what they can and what they cannot post is completely absurd. This is discriminating between people in power and the average American citizen. Besides this unfair discrimination, this is promoting the abuse of social media by politicians to assert their hatred and selfish agendas. In this current age, we are dealing with a newfound interest in hate speech by many American politicians and citizens, which eventually leads to violence and the further divide between the nation’s citizens. When politicians are given the “pass” to conduct hate speech and to do as they please, this teaches the American people that if the politicians are allowed to conduct in such manner, then they are as well. Such hate speech could be against a certain group of people, such as the Republicans towards Democrats or it could be targeted at certain nationalities, religions or races, such as the White Supremacists against immigrants, Black people, and Muslims. When people in power are allowed to express their hateful/ racist beliefs on social media, what are we promoting? And what are we telling the people of America through such actions?
    A good point that the article had made was when the author noted that “restricting the speech of idiot 14-year-old trolls while allowing the President to say the same thing isn’t virtue […] It’s cowardice.” I completely agree with this because if the social media company made a rule that a specific type of content cannot be posted on their platform then it should be obeyed by all. There cannot be any exceptions that say, “ everyone but the people in power, such as our President and other politicians.” I mean, as a company with their own terms they can, but how legal/moral is that? We hold the President and the other politicians in a high position, and with this position means that they must act accordingly and not promote any hate through any platforms. There is no difference between the President and the 14-year-old boy because they both should not be conducting in such a negative manner in public. But, when it comes to our political leaders who are given such a power to abuse social media platforms, Facebooks’ VP needs to understand that this is supporting hate speech as well as supporting the spread of hate throughout the world. Especially the possibility that our youth could grow up watching these political leaders express their hateful beliefs, which may lead to a new generation of people full of hate.
    What shocked me about Willner’s comment was that his justification for him allowing politicians to post whatever they like is that he is “not convinced the horror of the speech is greater than the horror of it going unnoticed.” In my opinion, I would rather have it go unnoticed because people will not be seeing how politicians can express whatever they want on social media platforms. This may help prevent children, teenagers and many adults from getting inspired by these politicians to further expand on their hateful beliefs. If I do not see something on the news or on social media, then I do not know that it occurred. Although we know hate speech occurs in our society, It does not mean that it should be allowed to be posted on social media. We are not unaware of hate speech on social media, but it is good to have it not be noticed while we are scrolling through the different posts. This is something that needs to be prevented from everyone and not specific people. Additionally, Willner said that Facebook defines what a politician is, and which politicians are allowed to post such content. This is once again a very tricky topic because Facebook uses its own standards, which is not given to us, to judge who applies to such rules and who doesn’t. How will one politician feel when they can write their own beliefs, but another cannot? What about fact-checking their comments? Since it was stated in the article that fact-checking would be used less for their comments. Therefore, this makes it harder for us to trust Facebook for news content from politicians as well as being able to feel safe on Facebook as a whole. Overall, I feel that this is a bad idea but if the VP of Facebook believes that he is in the right, let us see how things play out shortly as a result of this new rule.

  16. Lisa Tier October 16, 2019 at 10:19 pm #

    Hate speech is a controversial and very current issue of the social media world. Many users find their posts to be taken down after making hateful and inappropriate remarks. Users have even been suspended from the site due to certain posts they have made. The regulation of posts is both supported and opposed by users. Many users feel that it is necessary for the site to censor certain images and posts in order to make it more family friendly. On the other hand, many users would like freedom to speak their mind and post whatever they would like to; if anyone has an issue with that, they can simply unfriend them. Allowing politicians to be exempt from these regulations may cause anger in numerous people. Why should they have to watch what they post, but politicians, who are supposed to be role models and leaders, can post whatever they want no matter who it affects or offends? If politicians can speak their minds however they like, then that right should be granted to all users.
    The argument that it is important for voters to see and understand the views of politicians is absolutely valid. If a politician hates a certain race or group of people, yes, that information should be available to the general public for voters to make informed decisions. With that in mind, this right should be granted to everyone. As much as hate speech and racism are horrible things, it is in everyone’s basic rights to have freedom of speech. Unless someone’s posts are inferring terrorism or other acts of violence, every citizen should have the right the speak their mind.
    If Facebook continues with allowing politicians certain exemptions, they could lose many users and even face a lawsuit. Users may feel that they are being discriminated against because of their occupation and livelihood. Feelings of discrimination could lead users to file a lawsuit against the company for allowing people special privileges based on prestige and importance. With this as a possibility, Facebook should be very careful in how they address this situation from this point forward, keeping in mind the rights and concerns of all its users.

  17. Caitlyn M October 17, 2019 at 1:10 pm #

    I completely agree with what Dave Willner is saying about Facebook. By making politicians a more privileged class of citizens with more freedom to say as they please, so long as it does not directly incite violence, Facebook has made freedom not truly free. Not if you are a private citizen rather than a politician, that is. I also agree that politicians have become more willing to publicly say and post highly offensive things in the last ten years than they ever have, and this policy only enables these sorts of politicians to have more of a platform to post on. If they were to treat every citizen, politician or not, the same way as their policy on hate speech says that they should, I do not believe that the horribly racist and sexist remarks would be as prevalent as they currently are. This is not to say that Facebook is completely at fault for the rise of such views, but that they do have a responsibility in allowing them to be continuously shared on their platform. The fact that they are giving more leeway to people with the ability to influence voters is concerning since these people have the ability to impact our society and our laws, as well as what we think is right. This leads into another part of Willner’s argument, that these views being shared publicly naturally does spark violence. If people are to hear politicians said racist and sexist things, what is to stop their actions from reflecting these views? Nothing. That is the danger here.

    Additionally, I have to disagree with both Bosworth and Jeffries’ claims. Bosworth states that this new policy will allow voters to see how politicians really think. However, I think he does not understand the power of letting these views get out to the general public and what harm they cause. If everyone saw the views and collectively agreed they were awful and did not listen to them, that would be one thing. But the radicalists that are fueled by the publicity of these words are what makes the policy so awful. As for Jeffries, he states that it isn’t a matter of different rules being applied to different groups but rather a different evaluation system for them. I think that this is a moot point as it still reflects the two groups being treated differently rather than the same. Neither of these men seems to grasp the true problem that Willner proposes, instead they make other points that seem to want to invalidate his argument rather than counter it, and as such I have to disagree with them.

  18. Tiffany Lyn October 17, 2019 at 8:48 pm #

    It’s understandable that Dave Wilner is outraged over this politician exemption of hate speech. He created the standard of contents for Facebook 10 years ago with all users having the same rules. These rules were created to form censorship and protect its users from offensive images and hateful speech. Today, politicians’ hate speech will be allowed. Some argue that people deserve to truly know what our politicians are thinking, while others argue that this leeway will incite violence in our communities. I think it’s ridiculous that people think hate speech will better our country. Spewing offensive words that target certain groups of people will only incite more hate and xenophobia. While Americans have the privilege of freedom of speech, Facebook is a place that will give racists, sexists, etc. a platform to spread their intolerance of others. Allowing politicians to post hate speech is setting such a low standard or our leaders. That’s what Wilner means when he uses the word “cowardice”. Facebook is restricting teenage trolls who mindlessly post offensive content but will allow politicians to post their hate speech.
    The word “newsworthiness” kept coming up in the article. Today Americans have a unique connection to our politicians. We know what they’re thinking in real time. With that being said, not every tweet/thought politician make are newsworthy. Throughout Trump’s presidency he randomly went on elitist rants that pertained to him and his self-image. I wouldn’t consider that content newsworthy, but his tweets addressing his impeachment, views on immigration etc. are newsworthy.
    Wilner is completely correct when he says he’s one of the few qualified people to speak on this issue. He has years of tech experience, specifically in community guidelines and company standards. His opinion is that hate speech will incite violence. Hate speech will heighten the already tense political climate in America. Any politician that posts hate speech is creating a bigger divide in the country. Trump tweeting that his impeachment will result in a civil war perpetuates that America is becoming a divided country.
    A politician is a someone who serves as a representative for the people. Giving them more freedom on social media seems backwards because nothing positive will come from hate speech. More harm than good will happen to Facebook users.

  19. Alexander Nowik October 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    I 100% agree with Wilner on this. It does seem ridiculous to censor a 14 yr old, and then give a politician free reign to say the same thing. If Facebook is going to have rules on what type of content is not allowed, no one should be exempt from those rules. While I do not feel as though Facebook has some altruistic duty to censor hate-speech, they clearly have taken a strong stance against it in the past, and continue to do so. Thus, it is hypocritical for them to bow down to politicians just because they have more influence. In fact that influence part to me would suggest they should be even more careful with what type of content they allow from those users. If Facebook’s goal is to eliminate hate speech on their platform, stopping those with influence would seem like the first target not those who are spouting hate to maybe a few people in their sphere.

  20. Kathleen Watts October 18, 2019 at 8:07 pm #

    There are two conflicting arguments here, both of which have some merit to them. On one hand, Facebook not censoring politicians might be a move on their part to continue to get the favor of these politicians. On the other hand, allowing for politicians to post whatever strange or hateful abuses they chose to might actually make us a more educated population in general.
    It is important, especially given recent events, for us to be critical of Facebook’s decisions, especially when they are as questionable as this one. The social networking site has been in a lot of hot water these past few years over a lot of very shady things. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg even had to appear in front of Congress to discuss their dealings with Cambridge Analytica and the selling of user’s data. Facebook allowing Cambridge Analytica to access this data quite possibly changed the face of the Brexit referendum and following public outcry. Cambridge Analytica used the data they got from Facebook users to target ads promoting a Vote Leave campaign that ranged from being purposefully misleading to outright lying. Even more, Facebook announced that Russian bots and groups used Facebook to influence the 2016 presidential race in favor of Donald Trump. This move, given these circumstances, really seems like a blatant attempt to allow politicians to abuse the platform they have on the site. David Wilner even goes as far as to call it cowardice. Looking at it in this light, that seems very true. They may have a lot to gain from this. If politicians in any branch of government get a soft spot for Facebook, they may be more inclined to right laws in favor of the companies actions.
    Like stated in the article, there is another issue to this. Politicians and common people are not on a level playing field with this rule in place. People may not even be able to fully debate against what a politician said on the site, while the politician is allowed to spew off whatever he or she wants to. Even worse, while the words of these politicians will definitely make many angry, they may also inspire many fringe people who relate to what they are saying. You have to remember, when we talk about hate speech, we’re not talking about someone who disagrees with a certain side, we’re talking about blatant racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech that has an intention to cause emotional or mental damage to the group or individual person. It’s like an attack with words. This creates a dangerous atmosphere where hateful, close-mindedness is actually promoted. People who think this way should not be given platforms.
    There is another side to this debate, however. Bosworth makes a good point in saying that it allows people to see what their politicians really think. This new world of social media allows us a view into a community we don’t see very often. Even just six years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a politician who had a public social media platform. It wasn’t until halfway through Obama’s second term that we saw our first presidential twitter. While this has been good to allow us a more immediate and easily accessible view into the daily going ons of the White House, it also opened the door for us to see what they truly think about certain topics. This can be pretty helpful for many people. On Twitter, you can see people switching sides with each uneducated or hateful or misleading tweet Trump sends. The same is true for other politicians who chose to voice their opinions on Twitter with little thought to the implications of their speech. People can make more informed decisions this way simply because they have a better understanding of what they’re getting into when voting for a certain person.

  21. Wyatt Slone October 18, 2019 at 8:47 pm #

    Facebook faces another backlash by the public when Nick Clegg announces that Facebook will not fact-check politician’s public posts and allow politicians to post anything regardless of racism, sexism, etc. I completely agree with David Willner, former head of content standards, when he steps forward and speculates Facebook’s actions. Willner states that he is dumbfounded that Facebook is going against their own content policy.
    When siding with Facebook, a user first signing up with Facebook must click agree to a long list of “Terms of Agreement”. Within those terms we sign over our rights to many things, for example when it hit the media that our personal information was free to be accessed by foreign countries many years ago. When facebook is allowing politicians the platform to promote their ideas for their campaign, they are not negating the rest of community of facebook’s opinions. Facebook is just pushing politics forward and not everyone’s grandma’s new profile picture.
    Now to take the stance in which I fully support, which is to fight Facebook and side with David Willner. Facebook does not get to put up smoke and mirrors for people of power and turn their heads to rules that have been set since the creation of Facebook. If they filter explicit language of normal users, politicians and people of higher ranked positions should also be monitored, and perhaps more so than normal citizens. By Facebook allowing mudslinging in a public forum and also advertising these campaigns, they forfeit the right to stay neutral to any negative backlash that happens in the future.
    By raising these politicians onto a pedestal, Facebook is creating their own caste system of what user’s opinions are being heard and matter. By projecting importance and leinancy with public figures, Facebook is going to see a big change in how their “less than” citizens interact on their site. By feeding their members political ads, mudslinging agendas, and explicit material, Facebook will most likely see a large decrease in memberships.

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