Readers may recall that Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised German Chancellor Angela Merkel he would do something about Facebook groups expressing concern about the way migrants are changing Germany.

The problem is, while some groups might merit expulsion for expressions of hate, once the subject is politicized, we will not likely find even-handed enforcement. Those complaining about anti-Semitism could share some discouraging stories.

It may partly be a question of volume and reach: There are more anti-Semites in the world than there are anti-migrants in Germany. And that’s the central difficulty: Enforcing rules against hate speech selectively is worse than not enforcing them at all. Even if honestly meant, it amounts to siding with the group that can produce a bigger, more monotonous volume of hate than even a system like Facebook can keep up with.

Which brings us to Twitter’s effort to power down religious “hate.” Radio host Michael Brown reports at Townhall:

I can’t imagine that anyone thinks we need more incivility and hatred and incitement on social media, and I can understand why Twitter CEO Dick Costolo feels “ashamed” at how poorly his company has handled abusers.

With that in mind, Twitter’s guidelines are understandable, stating, “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”

But what exactly does this mean?

As a Canadian long involved in the free speech wars I can tell him what it means: If someone who has political cachet makes a big to-do about feeling attacked or threatened, their target has committed an offence.

Twitter is a digital medium; no one can reach out from the screen and upset someone’s coffee onto their lap. For that very reason, claims about “violence,” “attack,” or “threat” may be entirely metaphorical, yet potent, especially when the target is not Cool.

For some idea of what to expect, as Brown recounts,

Recently, in an eye-opening Facebook experiment conducted by the Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center, two Facebook pages were launched simultaneously, one anti-Israeli and the other anti-Palestinian. Progressively hateful posts were uploaded to each site simultaneously, culminating with calls to kill the Jews on one page and to kill the Palestinians on the other page.

Both pages were then reported to Facebook simultaneously, after which Facebook removed the anti-Palestinian site, finding it to be in violation of Facebook’s community standards, while leaving the anti-Israeli site untouched, since it was not found to be in violation.

Family values groups can expect the same treatment as a matter of course. Mozilla developer and executive Brendan Eich was fired after an IRS employee leaked to gay lobbyists the fact that he had given money to a marriage defense group. It will sound something like this: “‘Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech,’ Baker said.”

There was no significant outcry from within the high tech industry at the Orwellian justification.

Groups not protected by political correctness may end up needing new methods of new media communication. But it is early days yet.

See also: Decision time for Facebook: Censor or no?


Whoa, Rosie! Twitter is not a family conference! We all have family problems, and let’s all just keep them off the internet.


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...