Facebook has apologized for flagging pieces of the Declaration of Independence as hate speech.
The post was published by The Vindicator, a newspaper located in Texas, and included several sections of the document. After only minutes, Facebook’s algorithm for deleting hate speech flagged the post and took it down.
The term “Indian Savages” set off the Facebook flag and the post was quickly taken down.
The entire sentence reads:
“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”
CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the flagging “unsafe” judgment and an “enforcement error”.
The Vindicator reported that:
“Somewhere in paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson wrote something that Facebook finds offensive … The first nine parts posted as scheduled, but part 10, consisting of paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration, did not appear. Instead, The Vindicator received a notice from Facebook saying that the post “goes against our standards on hate speech.” Facebook’s notice then asked The Vindicator to review the contents of its page and remove anything that does not comply with Facebook’s policies.”
Facebook later restored the post and issued an apology to the Texas-based newspaper. In an email, Facebook said the following:
“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”
So, is the term “Indian savages” hate speech in this context? After the news broke, the libertarian website Reason.com quickly shared their perspectives:
“That phrasing is clearly racist and serves as another example of the American Revolution’s mixed legacy; one that won crucial liberties for a certain segment of the population, while continuing to deny those same liberties to Native Americans and African slaves. But by allowing the less controversial parts of the declaration to be shared while deleting the reference to “Indian savages,” Facebook succeeds only in whitewashing America’s founding just as we get ready to celebrate it.”
Facebook decided to take the high road and not criticize the historic document. What do you think, racist?
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