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Facebook to bolster efforts to deal with hate speech

Brian Womack (via SMH) | May 29, 2013

"Our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like": Facebook.
"Our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like": Facebook. Photo: AP

Facebook plans to bolster efforts to keep hate speech off its site amid complaints the site allowed content that encourages violence against women, prompting at least one company to suspend advertisements.

Nissan's UK unit temporarily halted some Facebook ads that could have shown its promotions next to offensive content after the group Women, Action and the Media criticised the social network's response to complaints.

Facebook said it will review guidelines for evaluating content that may violate its standards, and will update training for teams that review reports on hate speech.

Social media services have surged in popularity by giving users leeway in posting comments, photos and videos.

But that freedom can backfire if members' content pushes the boundaries of good taste, potentially turning off advertisers. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre faulted Twitter in a report this month, saying the microblogging service has helped spur growth in online forums for hate and terror.

"In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate," Facebook said. "We need to do better - and we will."

Gender bias
Women, Action and the Media, a group that looks at gender bias, said in a letter last week that Facebook had "groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about".

As part of its effort to get the content removed, the group started an online campaign to pressure companies whose ads ran next to the content in question. The efforts included emails and messages on Twitter.

Facebook plans to set up more formal communications with representatives of women's groups and other organisations to speed up its response to questions about possibly offensive content. The company also said it will increase accountability for creators of content that is "cruel or insensitive", even if the content doesn't qualify as hate speech.

Nissan UK temporarily halted Facebook advertisements with demographic targeting that potentially could have shown its promotions next to the controversial content, according to Travis Parman, a spokesman for Nissan.

The car maker wanted to have "dialogue with Facebook" to determine how its ads may have been displayed next to the content, he said. Nissan's US unit isn't currently using the type of ad targeting in question on Facebook, he said.


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