Facebook Still Allows Death Threats Against Right-Wing Personalities It Blacklists, Former Moderator Says

Facebook Still Allows Death Threats Against Right-Wing Personalities It Blacklists, Former Moderator Says
Zach McElroy, former Facebook content moderator at Cognizant, talks to Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe. (Screenshot via Project Veritas/Youtube)
Petr Svab

Facebook allows death threats against persons and groups it puts on a special blacklist, a former Facebook content moderator said. A number of right-wing personalities have been put on that list, but there were no left-wing personalities or groups on it, the person said. It's not clear whether Facebook changed its policy regarding the threats since the moderator lost his job in February.

Facebook has a rule against death threats, which are also illegal and not covered by First Amendment protections.

But around July 2019, Facebook updated its content policy to add an exception to allow “threats that could lead to death (and other forms of high-severity violence)” against people and groups that the company puts on its list of “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations.”

Aside from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and individuals tied to Nazism, Facebook also placed on the list people such as populist commentator Paul Joseph Watson, InfoWars host Alex Jones, and conservative activist Laura Loomer.

Watson publicized at the time dozens of examples of threats, including death threats, he said he’d received on Facebook.

After some public backlash around July 9–10, Facebook quietly removed the “Dangerous Individuals” exception from the publicly available version of its policy.

But this change was never communicated to Facebook’s content moderators, and, in practice, the exception remained in place, according to Zach McElroy, who used to work as a Facebook content moderator at Cognizant, a company hired by Facebook to perform part of its manual content moderation.

“The truth is they never actually changed it for the moderators. ... The policy is such that, yes, you can still make these calls to violence,” he told The Epoch Times in a phone call.

McElroy was laid off in February, together with all other moderators in his team at Cognizant office in Tampa, Florida.

He couldn’t say if the policy has changed since then.

McElroy said moderators like him were provided with Facebook’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list. He noticed there were no left-wing personalities or even far-left groups on the list.

Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment. Its officials have previously stated, including during congressional testimony, that its platform doesn't favor one political viewpoint over another.

McElroy first came with his story to Project Veritas, an investigative journalism nonprofit. In a Veritas video released June 23, he said that at least one Facebook algorithm seemed designed to flag predominantly right-leaning content.

Moreover, he and several Veritas undercover reporters secretly recorded a number of Facebook moderators talking about political bias in content policing, either their own or that they observed in others.

Several moderators were recorded as saying that they were removing any content that came their way that was conservative or supporting President Donald Trump, even if the content didn’t violate Facebook policy.

McElroy noted that part of the reason the moderators at his office were doing this and openly talking about it was that they learned in November 2019 that they were all to be laid off. His perception was that at least some of the moderators were likely doing it already before they learned about the layoff.

McElroy said that by sharing his story, he's breaking a nondisclosure agreement he signed at Cognizant. He said he doesn't know how high a penalty he could potentially face. He set up a GoFundMe page for people who'd like to support him.
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
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