Facebook Refuses to Ban Groups Behind Racist, Misogynistic Kamala Harris Posts

Facebook has chosen not to remove three groups that posted a series of racist and misogynistic posts about Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, despite the groups "regularly" hosting hateful material.

The posts, which included memes and comments, some of which were of a sexually graphic nature, were only removed after BBC News alerted Facebook to the groups in which they were hosted.

The posts include claims that Harris was not a US citizen, a lie that has peddled by right-wingers consistently throughout the election campaign, as well as calls for Harris to be deported to India, the birthplace of her mother, and comments about her not being "Black enough" for the Democratic Party.

In a September blog post, Facebook said it "will take an entire group down if it repeatedly breaks our rules or if it was set up with the intent to violate our standards."

According to BBC News, the three groups that it flagged to the social network's moderators "regularly hosted hateful material." However, the social network told BBC News that it will not take action against the groups themselves.

Newsweek asked Facebook if it will remove the groups. It declined to comment, but confirmed it had removed content aimed at Harris.

Facebook said it has also banked the violating memes to stop them from appearing on the site again.

"We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity and serious disease or disability," Facebook's Community Standards state.

They add: "We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority or calls for exclusion or segregation."

Facebook categorizes hate speech into "three tiers of severity." Newsweek asked the company to clarify which of the tiers the derogatory posts about Kamala Harris that were taken down fell into.

The company declined to comment, but said that violations of its Community Standards related to bullying and harassment can be tougher to detect because it requires context and can be personal in nature.

Facebook's struggles with combating hate speech and misinformation have frequently given rise to the accusation that the site "profits from hate."

The company, however, strongly disputes this, and says that any failures on its part are due to the vast scale of the site and its user base.

"Facebook does not profit from hate," Nick Clegg, Facebook's VP of global affairs and communications, wrote in a blog post in July.

"More than 100 billion messages are sent on our services every day ... In all of those billions of interactions a tiny fraction are hateful. When we find hateful posts on Facebook and Instagram, we take a zero-tolerance approach and remove them ... Unfortunately, zero tolerance doesn't mean zero incidences.

"With so much content posted every day, rooting out the hate is like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Newsweek was able to find further offensive memes about Kamala Harris within minutes of searching the site, and flagged them to Facebook. The social network has now removed them from its platform.

In a rebuttal to criticism from Jeff Orlowski docu-drama The Social Dilemma, one of the most-watched films on Netflix in September, Facebook wrote: "We know our systems aren't perfect and there are things that we miss. But we are not idly standing by and allowing misinformation or hate speech to spread on Facebook."

Update 11/18/20, 11:20 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add that Facebook has removed the the offensive memes that Newsweek alerted it to.

vice president-elect kamala harris
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris addresses the media on November 10, 2020 at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Facebook has removed racist and misogynistic posts about Harris, but not the groups behind them. Joe Raedle/Getty Images