Facebook removes Declaration of Independence excerpt over ‘hate speech’

A newspaper in Liberty, Texas, said Facebook removed its post containing an excerpt of the Declaration of Independence because it contained “hate speech.”
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A newspaper in Liberty, Texas, said Facebook removed its post containing an excerpt of the Declaration of Independence because it contained “hate speech.”

Credit: Dan Kitwood

Credit: Dan Kitwood

A newspaper in Liberty, Texas, said Facebook removed a post containing an excerpt of the Declaration of Independence because it contained "hate speech."

The Vindicator published a series of posts to the social network with excerpts of the official U.S. document leading up to the Fourth of July, but said one of its posts never showed up online, because Facebook removed it for "hate speech" standards.

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Casey Stinnett, the paper's managing editor, told USA Today that a portion of the text included the term "Indian savages," which may have played a role.

"Unfortunately, (Thomas) Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans," Stinnett wrote after the post was removed. "Although, to be honest, there is a good deal in that passage that could be thought hateful."

In a comment to the newspaper, Facebook said it “made a mistake” in removing the excerpt and has restored it to the site.

"We never doubted Facebook would fix it, but neither did we doubt the usefulness of our fussing about it a little," Stinnett wrote.

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

This is not the first time Facebook’s code standards have been criticized.

In 2016, Facebook removed an iconic photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War for violating its standards.

Facebook eventually restored the photo.

"An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography," Facebook stated in 2016. "In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time."

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