Facebook to improve response to hate speech

Facebook has admitted that current measures to deal with "controversial, harmful and hateful" content are not working as well as it had hoped, saying that it will now review how such pages and posts are dealt with.

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The action comes in the wake of sustained pressure from campaign groups, advertisers and the media.

A high profile online campaign from a number of prominent women's pressure groups has called for the social network to take three specific actions:

"Recognise speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content."
"Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech."
"Effectively train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women."

In addition, at least 13 brands – including Nissan – are reported to have removed their advertisements from Facebook from in the face of the backlash. A spokesman for the Japanese carmaker said that the company had asked Facebook to remove its ads from offensive pages that were visited by targeted users, and only from the British version of the site. He emphasised that the company is not changing its advertising strategy with Facebook, with which it has a good relationship.

Facebook's blog acknowledged there had been problems with removing content that would be considered examples of gender-based hate: "We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will," it said. It added that it would update the guidelines used to evaluate hate speech, and would also encourage existing online anti-hate groups to add representatives of women's organisations.

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