This week we celebrated the 4th of July holiday with most probably understanding why it is a special day in the United States of America. But if not, it’s because on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was ratified, at which point the colonies had decided they wanted to no longer be a part of Great Britain.
That led to the Revolutionary War which, spoiler alert, the colonies won and ultimately formed the nation we know today. But for as high of regard as we hold the Declaration of Independence, it’s fair to assume a good many people do not exactly know what it says.
While perhaps disappointing, that’s not necessarily a big deal. Except, it may help to explain why Facebook decided part of the document went against their standards and could not be posted on the site.
Facebook said it was hate speech
Facebook has been under fire as of late for myriad reasons. Whether it’s privacy, bias, lies or bugs, they just can’t stay out of the news.
This latest flap involves one of their community standards, the one that is meant to regulate hate speech. According to Facebook, they “define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.”
Seems reasonable and we can all probably agree that stuff like that does not belong on the site. But in this instance, as the Liberty County Vindicator in Texas was attempting to post the Declaration of Independence as a 12-part series leading up to the holiday, it became problematic.
There was a specific line that seemed to be at issue, though Facebook has not identified the cause.
However, the passage the community newspaper was trying to share included the line “merciless Indian savages” as part of a longer theme of talking down about King George III. It was actually written into a list of 27 specific grievances against the King.
It’s kind of understandable why Facebook would flag the post, but at the same time if the Declaration of Independence is not allowed to be posted on the site, then something is off.
It got sorted out
The Vindicator wrote about it on their website Monday, and by Tuesday the post was restored and Facebook had sent an apology. In it, Facebook said it made a mistake in removing the post and that they fixed it as soon as they looked into what happened.
Adding to that, Facebook noted that they process millions of reports each week and sometimes get things wrong. Still, for at least a little while it put the newspaper in a tenuous position and Facebook in yet another negative light.