Why Facebook tolerates what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls hate groups

Facebook‘s vast community of users espouse a variety of beliefs, philosophies, and political leanings. Among them, according to critics at the Southern Poverty Law Center, are “hate groups” that demonize whole classes of people—including immigrants, Muslims, and whites. In researching my feature on the tech platforms that power incendiary groups, I came across 17 SPLC-designated hate groups (there are likely more) with Facebook pages or groups or with websites running Facebook’s commenting service. I asked the social network if any violated its community standards against hate speech enough to be dropped from the network.

Two of them did: neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division and Invictus Books, which sells anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi products. But Facebook didn’t drop other sites, including Stop the Islamization of the World, whose website features animated burning Qurans. Another group not dropped is All Eyes On Egipt [sic] Bookstore, whose jailed founder, Dwight York, has made proclamations including “White people are the devil.” Bureau of Islamic American Relations, whose official description begins “ANTI iSLAM GROUP,” was also allowed to stay. 

“To remove an entire group for being a hate group, we must find that the group is dedicated to promoting hatred against a protected category” of people, Facebook said by email (emphasis theirs). Those categories include race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation. 
Read my feature on how tech platforms are grappling with hate groups here.

[Photo: Flickr user reynermedia]