Feb 182016

During the refugee crisis Facebook has been very helpful, these past few weeks and months, in coordinating donations, finding helpers or reuniting people. At the same time, the platform has become a tool to spread hate, xenophobia and rage. Everything from insults to death threats was and can be found there and the term hate speech is known to practically everyone. The comment section is avoided by everyone who observes this development with caution and worry, or turned off by editorial staff entirely. Even German politicians have acknowledged the extent of the matter and the changes that are happening.

German politician Katrin Göring-Eckhart started off the political involvement in September 2015 by posting a video in which she read out hate speech comments directed at her. Shortly after, Heiko Maas, the German attorney general, demanded a better review of Facebook comments from Facebook itself. He clarified that in-house terms of use can not stand above German law and that German-speaking employees will be needed to review the hate comments. Google, Facebook, Twitter and civil society organisations, like the German Amadeu Antonio Foundation, gathered in form of a task force in September 2015 to put an end to the dispute. The results of this gathering were rather sobering for Maas as only few of his demands were met. At the UN Sustainability meeting later that month, Angela Merkel used the opportunity to make Mark Zuckerberg personally promise to make a change. This promise has now been fulfilled.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, announced the “Online Civil Courage Initiative” during her visit to Berlin on January 18th, 2016. The initiative is a broad alliance against extremism and hates speech and is supported by the following partners: „International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence” (ICSR), the „Institute for Strategic Dialogue” (ISD) and the Amadeu Antonio foundation. These initiatives and foundations have been dealing with hate speech online and radical hate for years.
Facebook has announced that, as part of the initiative, they will support European NGOs in their fight against online extremism with more than one million Euros. The NGOs will be supported with marketing strategies as well. Berlin will be the headquarters of the initiative and from there people will work Europe-wide. The goal is to establish counter speech as ahelpful mechanism. Further details have not been announced yet.
Previously, Facebook already explained that they have hired a German taskforce to work and act against hate and hate speech online. This taskforce is supposedly made up of a three-digit number team and includes employees who are fluent in Arabic, French and Turkish. The controllers are employed by the Bertelsmann subsidiary Arvato and will also have their base in Berlin. They are tasked with reviewing Facebook content and deleting violations faster.

Further Reading (In German):

  1. http://www.bild.de/politik/inland/heiko-maas/so-will-facebook-hetze-gegen-fluechtlinge-stoppen-42570716.bild.html
  2. http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/facebook-laesst-heiko-maas-abblitzen-a-1067836.html
  3. http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/facebook-kuendigt-initiative-fuer-zivicourage-online-an-a-1072319.html
 Posted by at 13:42

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.