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Facebook says threat to throw gay people to their deaths does not violate its standards

Facebook says threat to throw gay people to their deaths does not violate its standards

  • LGBT+ campaigners in Middle East and North Africa demand Facebook acts against endemic hate.
Michael Clarke's Facebook image of a rainbow flag burning.

Facebook is turning away complaints against LGBT+ hatred on its platform, even when its users clearly advocate murder.

Now, LGBT+ campaigners from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are demanding the company acts.

They complain that hate speech is increasing on the platform. And it comes as Facebook faces unprecedented commercial pressure to tackle hatred.

Around a third of big advertisers, with a buying power of around $100billion, are planning to boycott Facebook for a month. The Stop Hate for Profit boycott insists Facebook must tackle hate speech.

So far, most of the debate has, understandably, been around racist hate on Facebook. But the LGBT+ campaigners from the Middle East and North Africa say homophobic and transphobic hate is endemic in their region.

One post they highlighted to GSN reads (translated):

‘If you think it’s your right to act on sodomy/ homosexuality, then it’s my right to throw you off the roof.’

Abdullah's Facebook post.
Abdullah’s Facebook post. Facebook

Racist and homophobic images

The campaigners complained to Facebook about the post. However, the social media giant replied that ‘it doesn’t go against our community standards, including hate speech’.

The threat is even more offensive because extremists claim Muslim Sharia Law calls for followers to murder LGBT+ people by throwing them off tall buildings and then stoning them to death.

The extremist Islamic State murdered multiple LGBT+ people in this way in recent years.

The campaigners gave a number of other examples to GSN.

Michael Clarke's Facebook profile.
Michael Clarke’s Facebook profile. Facebook

One is the feed from ‘Michael Clarke’. He claims to be ‘a proud Muslim’ but hasn’t accepted the religion’s central premise of peace.

Instead his profile photo advocates anti-LGBT+ violence by depicting a plain stick man kicking a rainbow stick man in the gut.

His profile is almost exclusively dedicated to hate. It shows burning Pride flags and rainbows being swept into the gutter. Alongside racist images, he shows a dog with a gun superimposed on a burning rainbow flag. This appears to be another threat of violence. 

Meanwhile they have also complained about another user, Waallah Hasal.

Waallah Hasal posted this image.
Waallah Hasal posted this image. Facebook

He posted this hate-filled illustration which appears to show an Islamic fighter with a sword facing off against peaceful LGBT+ and Black Lives Matter protestors. Above the protestors looms a clearly anti-semitic image of a Jewish spider with a Star of David.

Likewise, they also objected to a video by travel vlogger Haggagovic.

Haggagovic mocking LGBT+ people at Pride.
Haggagovic mocked LGBT+ people at Pride. Facebook

In it, he attends an LGBT+ Pride event. But while he pretends to be friendly to the attendees in English, he mocks them in Arabic. He also directly blames the LGBT+ community for causing COVID-19 and ‘Doomsday’.

Facebook is ‘unsafe’ for MENA LGBT+ people

Campaigners from Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Russia and beyond have signed the new letter to Facebook.

In it they say: ‘The MENA LGBTQI+ community has been reporting thousands of Arabic hate speech posts targeting women in general, and people of different sexual orientations in particular.

‘Most of these reports were declined because the content “did not contradict the Facebook community standards.”

‘This is due to the lax implementation of effective anti-hate speech policies in our region, which makes the platform unsafe for sexual minorities.’

They ask Facebook to use the same standards for hate speech worldwide. And they demand the social media giant trains staff in LGBT+ issues. Moreover, they want ongoing meetings with Facebook until the issue is resolved and representation at a senior level in the organization.

GSN has approached Facebook for comment and is awaiting a reply.

Facebook responds: Will remove posts

Facebook has now responded and offered to take down offending posts.

Moreover, the company admits the posts we highlighted which advocate violence would violate their standards. On that basis, Facebook requested GSN changed its headline. However, we have decided not to do so as their own regulators previously approved the posts in question, even if they have now changed their minds.

A Facebook company spokesperson said:

We take attacks on the LGBTQI+ community and indeed any form of hate speech incredibly seriously.

When we find these posts we take a zero tolerance approach and remove them. We have expert teams who review reports of hate speech 24/7 in more than 50 languages, including Arabic, and have AI tools that find nearly 90% of the hate speech we remove before users report it to us.

We know we have more work to do here and we’ll continue to work closely with members of the LGBTQI+ community in the Middle East and North Africa to develop our tools, technology and policies to continue our efforts.

However Facebook didn’t respond to our questions about the campaigners’ requests for urgent and ongoing talks.