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DOUGLAS MURRAY: Facebook’s War on Freedom of Speech

From the Gatestone Institute:

It was only a few weeks ago that Facebook was forced to back down when caught permitting anti-Israel postings, but censoring equivalent anti-Palestinian postings.

Now one of the most sinister stories of the past year was hardly even reported. In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook at a UN development summit in New York. As they sat down, Chancellor Merkel’s microphone, still on, recorded Merkel asking Zuckerberg what could be done to stop anti-immigration postings being written on Facebook. She asked if it was something he was working on, and he assured her it was.

At the time, perhaps the most revealing aspect of this exchange was that the German Chancellor – at the very moment that her country was going through one of the most significant events in its post-war history – should have been spending any time worrying about how to stop public dislike of her policies being vented on social media. But now it appears that the discussion yielded consequential results.

Last month, Facebook launched what it called an “Initiative for civil courage online,” the aim of which, it claims, is to remove “hate speech” from Facebook – specifically by removing comments that “promote xenophobia.” Facebook is working with a unit of the publisher Bertelsmann, which aims to identify and then erase “racist” posts from the site. The work is intended particularly to focus on Facebook users in Germany. At the launch of the new initiative, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, explained that, “Hate speech has no place in our society – not even on the internet.” She went to say that, “Facebook is not a place for the dissemination of hate speech or incitement to violence.” Of course, Facebook can do what it likes on its own website. What is troubling is what this organization of effort and muddled thinking reveals about what is going on in Europe.

The mass movement of millions of people – from across Africa, the Middle East and further afield – into Europe has happened in record time and is a huge event in its history. As events in Paris, Cologne and Sweden have shown, it is also by no means a series of events only with positive connotations.

 

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