When Facebook Removed the Declaration of Independence for Violating Hate Speech…


Facebook has been at the center of countless privacy controversies so far this year. But those aren't the only ones troubling the social networking monopoly. When a local newspaper in Texas decided to post portions of the US Declaration of Independence on Facebook in the days leading up to July 4, Facebook's automated moderation tools considered it hate speech and took down the post.

Facebook has continued to tell lawmakers after the 2016 Presidential election that it is getting control over hate speech, but the company's automated tools fail more often than not. Several activists have lamented how their war photography is removed while extremist groups continue to post hateful content.

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The post carrying US Declaration of Independence has since been restored and Facebook has apologized for the removal

The post in question was posted by The Vindicator. When reporting its removal by Facebook, the publication's editor suspected that it could be the following phrase about "Indian Savages."

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Facebook has confirmed that it was indeed the above portion of the Declaration that was flagged and later apologized for this automated removal admitting that its tools made a mistake. "We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action," the network told the publication.

"The post was removed by mistake and restored as soon as we looked into it. We process millions of reports each week, and sometimes we get things wrong." - Facebook said in a statement to the media.

The company has often promised to hire more human reviewers since automated tools can't always (or ever?) see the intent or context behind specific words or images.

"Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as 'Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development' that would have been better," the publication that had to temporarily lose its posts wrote (via Quartz). "Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans. Although, to be honest, there is a good deal in that passage that could be thought hateful."