Facebook Apologizes After Algorithm Targets Declaration of Independence as ‘Hate Speech’

July 5, 2018 Last Updated: July 5, 2018

Facebook’s censoring policies have again been marred by controversy after the tech giant’s algorithms decided that a part of the Declaration of Independence was hate speech.

The Liberty County Vindicator, a Texas newspaper, had posted short snippets of the Declaration of Independence between June 24 to July 4 to its Facebook followers in the lead up to Independence Day.

But after the first nine parts were posted as scheduled, the newspaper received a notice stating that one of the latest posts—consisting of paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration—“goes against our standards on hate speech,” according to Casey Stinnett, the managing editor of the Vindicator.

The notice from Facebook asked the paper to review its contents and to remove anything that does not comply with their policies. The paper said they are not sure what could have triggered the notice but the editor suspects it was probably due to the phrase “Indian Savages,” though this could not be verified or confirmed.

On July 3, the Facebook restored the deleted post and sent an emailed apology to the Vindicator’s office. The post’s initial removal was an automated action.

“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards,” Facebook wrote. “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 incident comes amid criticism over another case in which Facebook allegedly prevented a band from using its paid tools to promote a song titled “I Stand for the Flag” on July 3.

The Nashville-based Wes Cook Band released a video of the song on Facebook on July 2, hoping to promote it online. But the request, initially approved by Facebook, ended in rejection after the company cited the song’s “political content,” the band stated.

“Our paid FB ads were denied and our reach thereby censored because this video contains ‘political content.’ We believe Patriotism is not Political!” the band wrote on Facebook.