Banning Trump's Hate Speech From Facebook Would Be Politically and Culturally Disastrous
Filmmaker, showman and provocateur Michael Moore has a new suggestion for how to deal with Donald Trump's comments about keeping Muslims out of the United States: Report him to Facebook, the same way you'd treat anyone else's incendiary or hateful online comments.
But Facebook says it's a no-go. It's going to let Trump's comments stand on the grounds that the Donald's political relevance makes his comments too important to purge.
"When we review reports of content that may violate our policies, we take context into consideration," a Facebook spokesperson told Fast Company. That context can include the value of political discourse. Many people are voicing opinions about this particular content and it has become an important part of the conversation around who the next U.S. president will be. For those reasons, we are carefully reviewing each report and surrounding context relating to this content on a case-by-case basis."
To test whether or not Trump's sentiments violate Facebook's standards for hate-speech, Fast Company created a few dummy accounts that simply mirrored his views, with posts like "I'm with Trump, it's time for a 'total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on,'" and "I totally agree with Donald Trump's call for banning Muslims. Keep them out!"
Both posts were taken down shortly after being reported. Meanwhile, Trump's comments are viewed by millions.
The new town square: More people, and predominantly young people, are getting their news from Facebook, a hub for information that can both spread dissident opinions or new perspectives quickly and create an echo chamber for reinforcing your own political beliefs. Either way, it's one of the most powerful domains for expressing political opinions, sharing news and debating viewpoints.
Facebook may facilitate public discussion, but it's never attempted to be a free-speech paradise, the way social networks like Reddit claimed to be. Facebook could easily wipe Trump's comments from the News Feed, but it's choosing not to censor Trump because of his importance to a certain faction of the political right.
That Trump is a frontrunner for the Republican nomination — he posted his strongest lead Monday morning and is polling at 41% support — speaks to a populist movement that has felt underrepresented in politics. Denying their candidate the same platform as everyone else starts with wiping him from the world's No. 1 hub for political discourse. And the threat of censorship is exactly what created the demand for a loudmouth like Trump in the first place.
The silent majority is speaking louder than ever. Whether or not we agree with Trump's various platforms on race and immigration, the last thing we should do is silence them — or pretend they don't exist.