Internal Documents Reveal Bizarre Facebook Rules for Censorship of ‘Hate Speech’

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By Lukas Mikelionis | 7:41 am, December 21, 2016

Facebook has come under fire after German Newspaper SZ-Magazin revealed internal secret rules of deletion that show the platform flagging up the content as hate speech if it doesn’t abide to bizarre mathematical formulas.

The newspaper has acquired internal documents created by the department at Facebook that sets the rules of deletion.

According to the paper “these rules are then often applied by external service providers, such as the Bertelsmann subsidiary Arvato in Berlin. Employees attend internal training workshops where they learn what should be deleted and what shouldn’t.”

The documents show that Facebook actively tries to fight so-called hate speech on their platform, coining “protected categories” that help to define when the speech is hateful.

Attacks based on sex, religion, nationality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability will be flagged as hate speech and deleted.

However, despite Facebook taking an active stance in combating hate speech, it allows some forms of hate speech.

There are sub-categories that enjoy some protection. These include age, employment status, continent of origin, social status, appearance, political affiliation, and religions.

Despite these categories having some protection in theory, Facebook users are generally allowed to speak badly about them as long as it doesn’t include condemning actual people for being part of them.

Also, a “protected category” combined with another “protected category” will result in another category which, if spoken badly, can lead to censorship.

For instance, writing “Irish women are dumb,” which includes both “national origins” and “sex” categories, will break the community rules, meaning that such a post would be deleted.

But a post saying “Irish teenagers are dumb” won’t break the community rules, because a combination of a protected category with an unprotected category results in an unprotected category, thus is allowed.

The internal documents related to migrants and refugees also raise questions about how well the rules are enforced.

For example, writing “fucking Muslims” is prohibited because religious affiliation is a protected category. However, writing “fucking migrants” is allowed, as “migrant” isn’t a category Facebook wants to protect.

The rule claims that advocating hate against migrants is allowed under certain circumstances: posts saying “migrants are dirty” are allowed, while “migrants are dirt” aren’t.

The revelations by the newspaper also expose the dire conditions in which Facebook moderators work. According to the paper, 600 people in Berlin are working for as little as the minimum wage. Some anonymously complained that they are inadequately prepared. Struggling to comprehend the ill-defined rules of moderation, they feel stressed and overloaded.

Some employees of the Facebook moderation team have reported considerable psychological problems because of their exposure to shocking content, such as torture, murder, or child pornography.

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