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Facebook refused to take down posts threatening to murder queer people because they ‘didn’t contradict standards’, say LGBT+ activists

Lily Wakefield July 2, 2020
Facebook hate speech

LGBT+ rights groups said they reported a profile with a cover photo of a burning Pride flag, but were told it did not "contradict community standards". (Michael Clarke/ Facebook)

Facebook reportedly refused to take action on posts that called for the murder of LGBT+ people, according to activists.

LGBT+ activists across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have called on Facebook to tackle hate speech, including posts that call for the murder of queer people.

But, the platform reportedly found that they did not “contradict community standards”.

Activists and rights groups wrote an open letter to Facebook in the wake of the death of Sara Hegazy, an Egyptian LGBT+ activist who was jailed and tortured for raising a Pride flag at a concert, and then tragically died by suicide.

The letter said: “Although the MENA LGBTQI+ community has been reporting thousands of Arabic hate speech posts … most of these reports were declined because the content ‘did not contradict the Facebook community standards’.

“This is due to the lax implementation of effective anti-hate speech policies to manage the platform in our region, which makes the platform unsafe for sexual minorities.

“While the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination is a fundamental right enshrined in international treaties and covenants, it should be ensured that a mechanism exists to ensure that complaints from victims of hate speech in the region are examined without violating freedom of expression.”

If you think it’s your right to act on homosexuality, then it’s my right to throw you off the roof.

Activists provided Gay Star News with examples of posts that were reported to Facebook, including one which, when translated from Arabic, read: “If you think it’s your right to act on sodomy/homosexuality, then it’s my right to throw you off the roof.”

Another profile had a photo of a white stick figure kicking a rainbow stick figure in the stomach, with a cover photo of a burning Pride flag.

Adam Muhammed, executive director of the LGBT+ rights group ATYAF Collective in Morocco, told Reuters: “In the US and Europe, there is no room to spread hate speech against any sexual orientation, race, religion, sect or any other social group.

“We addressed a letter to Facebook asking its management to implement the same policy here as it uses in other countries.”

Facebook told PinkNews in a statement that it removed hate speech in more than 50 languages, including Arabic, and that 90 per cent of it was blocked before users reported it.

The spokesperson added: “We do not allow death threats, attacks or hate speech directed at the LGBTQI+ community…. We know we have more work to do here and we’ll continue to work closely with members of the LGBTQI+ community in the Middle East and North Africa to address this abhorrent behaviour.”

Calls for Facebook to remove hate speech and disinformation go global.

Facebook is facing increasing pressure around the world to address hate speech and the spread of disinformation.

On June 17, civil rights groups Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Free Press, and Color of Change began a campaign called Stop Hate for Profit which urged companies to pause their advertising on Facebook and Instagram in an attempt to force them to reconsider their policies.

Stop Hate for Profit said: “What would you do with $70 billion? We know what Facebook did.

“They allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others.

“They named Breitbart News a ‘trusted news source’ and made The Daily Caller a ‘fact checker’ despite both publications having records of working with known white nationalists.

“They turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression on their platform.

“Could they protect and support Black users? Could they call out Holocaust denial as hate? Could they help get out the vote?

“They absolutely could. But they are actively choosing not to do so.”

Companies including Adidas, Puma, Vans, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi’s, Verizon and Unilever have all vowed to pull advertising from Facebook during July.

In response to the mass boycott, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the company would put “warning labels” on posts, but would not stop the content being posted.

According to Out, Zuckerberg said Facebook users should be free to condemn content as “this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society”.

More: boycott, Facebook, hate speech, Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg, Middle East, north africa, Sara Hegazy

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