NEW DELHI: In a major shift, Facebook announced measures on Saturday to address controversial comments on its site, including taking down posts that violate its hateful conduct policy. The social media giant will also “label” some less problematic speeches.
The move came amid backlash from advertisers as well as its own staff over failure to regulate provocative content on platform. Coca-Cola, a major force in global advertising, was latest to join brands that said they will cease buying advertising on Facebook.
Facebook said it would expand its policies around hate speech and prohibit a wider category of hateful language. “There is no newsworthy exemptions to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or a government official says it, if we determine that the content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take it down,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a 13-minute long address to his staff. “I am committed to making sure that Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues,” he added.
According to Facebook, the “less problematic” post may be allowed to remain on the platform, with a warning. A post that violates Facebook’s rules but is from an important political figure, such as President Trump, will get a label saying it was deemed “newsworthy” enough to remain. “… We are still going to allow people to share this content in order to condemn it just like we do with other problematic content because that is an important part of how we discuss,” Zuckerberg added.
Facebook also said it would attach labels to all posts across its network that discuss the subject of voting. The labels will direct users to accurate voting information.
Facebook has been under fire for allowing inaccurate or inflammatory posts from Trump to remain unaltered on its site. Late on Friday, Coca-Cola said it would suspend ads on Facebook for at least 30 days as it reassesses its policies. Brands like Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s had also said they would pull back from advertising on Facebook. “There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media,” Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said.
Facebook’s move could have indirect ramifications for hate speech in India too. Essex-based social media researcher Sayan Banerjee told TOI that since “majority political communication in India happens through WhatsApp”, Facebook will have to strengthen Community Standards and develop tools to identify misinformation and hate speech suited for a large, multi-ethnic, diverse country such as India.