In this day and age, critiquing established systems of power is essential — especially when critiquing white people. White people as a whole are undoubtedly the most notorious oppressors in our world, and there is nothing wrong with pointing out where we fall short. Social media has created spaces where this critiquing can take place. From Facebook rants to Twitter threads, there are so many opportunities to express what we believe. And we have the complete right to critique systems of power through social media.
Facebook might have a different idea, however.
Last week, Twitter user @GaziKodzo tweeted about how Facebook had suspended her for posting the phrase “Am I Dehumanizing White People?”
— Gazi Kodzo (@GaziKodzo) July 27, 2017
You may guess this is an outlier case or a random incident, but it hints at a bigger problem with social media. It seems like many major social media platforms are more dedicated to silencing people of color and minorities than deleting hate speech directed at people of color and minorities.
In fact, earlier this year, U.S. congressman Clay Higgins (R-La.) posted on Facebook that all “radicalized” Muslims should be hunted and killed. To no surprise, Facebook did nothing about this post of hate speech. However, in May, Black Lives Matter activist Didi Delgado posted “All white people are racist” on Facebook. In response, Facebook deleted the post and suspended the account for seven days. While these are two remote examples, they demonstrate the twisted nature of Facebook’s policies on what they do and don’t delete.
Facebook’s “Community Standards” don’t necessarily reflect what’s happened in the examples I’ve discussed. It states: “Our mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Every day, people come to Facebook to share their stories, see the world through the eyes of others and connect with friends and causes. The conversations that happen on Facebook reflect the diversity of a community of more than two billion people. We want people to feel safe when using Facebook.” It continues: “…we may remove certain kinds of sensitive content or limit the audience that sees it.”
If Facebook considers critiquing white people “sensitive content”, but calling for a killing spree of Muslims isn’t, then Facebook really has its morals twisted.
And Facebook isn’t the only social media platform with a problem of this sort. Recently, the EU has criticized Twitter for not doing a better job of removing hate speech on their site; they failed to meet their standard of removing 50% of hate speech.
So, what do sites like Facebook and Twitter need to do to make sure they do a better job?
They need to create more specific guidelines on what is and isn’t considered hate speech. Vague “community standards” aren’t going to work anymore. Under no circumstances should critiquing white people be considered hate speech. However, malicious and threatening comments towards groups of people should be considered hate speech.
Major social media sites also need to pledge to protect people of color and minorities online. Oppressed communities are more often targeted and attacked online, so these companies need to ensure protection for them by vowing to delete actual hate speech directed at them.
As the Internet and its capabilities expand, there are more issues we need to address, and this is undoubtedly one of them. Hopefully, in the near future, major social media companies reevaluate their unspecific and ineffective policies on removing content and begin creating a more positive and progressive online environment.