Facebook’s European vice president today defended the platform’s attempts to stop the sharing of ‘hate speech’, amid a growing boycott from firms halting advertising.
In a BBC interview, Steve Hatch said there was ‘no tolerance on our platform for hate speech’ but claimed debates around such issues were, ‘extremely challenging’.
But Radio 4’s Today host Nick Robinson accused Mr Hatch of allowing ‘hate speech’ on the platform and profiteering from such content.
Robinson pointed to a post by US conservative activist Candace Owens calling George Floyd a ‘horrible human being’, that was the top comment on Facebook at the time of race riots.
Robinson claimed Facebook ‘profits off an algorithm that mainlines hate and encourages sharing’, making founder Mark Zuckerberg ‘billions of dollars as a result.’
In an attempt to mitigate the accusation Mr Hatch hit back, ‘When there’s hate in the world there will also be hate on Facebook.’
Steve Hatch said there was ‘no tolerance on our platform for hate speech’ but claimed debates around such issues were, ‘extremely challenging’
Social media users listening in claimed Mr Hatch was unable to refute the claims that Facebook encouraged ‘hate speech’
Robinson pointed to a post by pro-Trump activist Candace Owens calling George Floyd a ‘horrible human being’, that was the top comment on Facebook at the time of race riots
More big firms join the #StopHateforProfit campaign
Facebook is facing growing pressure over its hands-off approach to misinformation and inflammatory posts, including from US President Donald Trump.
A number of civil rights groups last week launched the ‘#StopHateforProfit’ campaign, encouraging companies to pull ads from Facebook.
North Face, based in California, was the first to join the campaign, with the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Free Press and Common Sense following suit.
Starbucks, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Ford, Adidas and HP have also pulled adverts.
The campaign took out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times pushing for companies to boycott Facebook. The social media giant reportedly made close to $70 billion in ad revenues last year.
‘What would you do with $70billion?’ the #StopHateForProfit ad asks.
‘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’.
The ad goes on to accuse Facebook of ‘turning a blind eye to voter suppression’ and ‘amplifying white supremacists’.
Starbucks has become the latest household name to suspend its adverts, following the likes of Unilever and Coca-Cola, amid concerns that the tech giant is failing to address the issue.
Ford, Adidas and HP have also joined the mass boycott.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire for not taking action on the matter, keeping up a post by Donald Trump, in which the president said ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’, during protests across the US over the death of George Floyd.
Mr Hatch told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There is no profit to be had in content that is hateful.’
But he admitted: ‘The debates that we see around these topics are extremely challenging and can be very, very wide-ranging.’
Mr Hatch said the company had invested millions to try to tackle the problem.
He added: ‘Our systems now detect and remove 90% of hate speech automatically and that’s not perfect but we do know that it’s up from 23% two years ago.
‘But we know that systems aren’t the only answer it’s about it’s a question of combining the forces that Facebook have with the community on Facebook itself.’
He said most people ‘have a positive experience’ on the social network but admitted there is a ‘small minority of those that are hateful’ because, ‘when there’s hate in the world there will also be hate on Facebook’.
Robinson said Facebook ‘chose not to change the algorithm that encourages the sharing of hate speech and mainlines hate.’
Mr Hatch hit back: ‘That’s not the case. I think it’s awful of course to see the events that have unfolded in the US and that are growing around the world.
‘But the way that our systems work are to provide people with the content that’s most often, in millions and millions of cases, both enjoyable and safe and to enable people to have a discussion.
‘When we look at the US it’s a very polarised atmosphere right now and there are many many issues, some of them very troubling and very concerning, where people do want to discuss and they do turn to online platforms to do that.
‘Debates do happen and these can often be challenging areas where people are discussing them either in a feed or are on groups.’
Mr Hatch denied such discussions were causing ‘real world harm’.
When asked if the race riots in America amounted to ‘real world harm’, he replied: ‘The debates we see around all of these topics were extremely challenging and can be very very wide ranging.’
The company joined several US firms to halt advertising spending on Facebook (pictured, CEO Mark Zuckerberg in February) last week over concerns the leading social network has fallen short in efforts to crack down on hateful posts
This comes as Facebook launched an advertising campaign to improve people’s awareness of fake news shared online, encouraging users to question what they see.
The initiative – devised in consultation with fact-checking partner Full Fact – asks the public to check whether a post is from a trusted source, ensure they read beyond headlines, and be alert to manipulated images, as well as reflecting on how it makes them feel.
‘People who make false news try to manipulate your feelings,’ warns one of the messages.
‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.’
Patagonia’s boss today revealed the company could stop advertising with Facebook ‘indefinitely’ if the platform fails to tackle a ‘rampant’ problem with ‘hate speech’, antisemitism and climate denialism.
Ryan Gellert, the outdoor clothing brand’s general manager in Europe, today said the tech giant’s business model was ‘flawed’ and had been profiting from hate speech and disinformation.
With an increasing number of firms backing the #StopHateforProfit campaign, Facebook’s share value fell by more than 8% on Friday.
In response, the tech giant said it is banning adverts containing claims that people of a specific race, religion or sexual orientation are a threat to others.