I’m one of several people who has been trying, for several months, to get Facebook to take down a page devoted to promoting the Ritual Murder Charge (661 likes). Originating, probably, in England in the mid 12th century, the ritual murder charge, in one of its common versions, holds that Jews annually kidnap a Christian child, torture it to death, and use its blood to make matzoh. The wikip page is good if you want more background. Of course it’s a horrendous lie, a key impetus for the murder of, well, millions of Jews (like Leo Frank, whose lynching the Facebook page celebrates).
Yesterday Facebook took down the page. Today, it’s back:
In fact, Facebook shelters a host of hate sites. Here’s the page for the Council of Conservative Citizens (446 members), which “believe[s] the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people”; “Anti-Racist is a Code for Anti-White” (10,347 likes!), and “Races of Man” (6004 members), whose avowed goal is simply “to discuss racial origins and differences from every level to the gene up” [sic], with “pseudo-history” expressly forbidden: its banner, however, is an image of the spread of “Indo-European” languages, which I might guess is being presented as a racial family tree; and its about page links to several classic texts of racist pseudo-science: here, here, here [on this 1974 book, see here], and here, whose pages on the “nordic ideal” provide grim confirmation of the book’s expected content.
A quick guess: Facebook has a simple filter to prevent obvious slurs and obvious hate speech from being used as page or community titles. There is no pro-rape page with the word “rape” in the title that I could find, for example, though there have been, and presumably still are, pro-rape pages. But the pages I’ve just listed slip past the filter. [An additional point, maybe comforting, maybe chilling: it’s not easy to find hate pages. I tried searches on Facebook for Palestine and Israel, and got nothing that was obviously hate speech. This suggests both that your average person, assuming that person’s not a misogynist racist, isn’t going to stumble across these pages accidentally, and, more chillingly, that these pages are populated by people who were alerted to them by their own communities, and so we are seeing, in these pages, real activist subnetworks of hate, deliberately generated and deliberately maintained.]
The problem is that Facebook wants clicks and visits, and clicks and visits have no content. Unless people leave Facebook en masse, it won’t care. The second, more general problem is that the Internet is open to anyone who has a connection. Speech can now reach its target directly, immediately, and a lot of this speech is hate speech. So, it’s not just that the Internet represents the community of humans as a whole. It represents, especially, the community of people with time to kill, and the loudest voices are the angriest, most unpleasant voices. Sometimes that’s good; but often it’s very, very bad.