OPINION: Why Facebook must take greater action against hate

OPINION: Why Facebook must take greater action against hate


By Andrea Cohen and Bev Myers

Facebook – Say No to Hatebook was founded on 5 April 2014 by a group of old BBYO friends from around the world who were concerned by the virulent hate pages on Facebook.

Facebook’s official mission statement is to make the world more open and connected. To stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

Unfortunately there is a sinister side to Facebook, where a few spread prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or a disability, in an unrestricted place and pour forth vitriolic hatred without fear of being hindered or gagged, still less arrested.

Our group’s mission statement is very simple: Facebook is meant to be about friends. About sharing news, banter, memories and opinions. It can be about opinions and views. But it is never meant to be about hatred. It is never meant to be about attacking an individual or group because of their race, religion, gender, disability, sexuality or other trait.

Andrea Cohen, one of the group's founders
Andrea Cohen, one of the group’s members

And this group is about opposing hatred. But more than that, it is about making Facebook responsible for prohibiting hatred on its pages. It is not enough for Facebook to claim to have a policy of prohibiting offensive material and then failing to put such a policy into action; it has a duty to act.

Facebook makes enormous profits – it is a business and is entitled to do that. But with that profit comes a responsibility to ensure that it is never used for racial, religious or homophobic or other prejudice. The members of this group are committed to fighting the misuse of Facebook and to making Facebook fight hatred.

The response to this simple message was incredible; almost 9000 members joined within a few weeks.  Facebook – Say No to Hatebook has no political agenda and is determined to prevent hate speech targeted at any religion, race, colour, sexuality, disability or gender.

This makes it unique as most similar groups focus on only one minority group, whereas the membership of Facebook – Say No to Hatebook reflects the diverse community it supports. Attempts to promote any specific political agenda are actively discouraged and removed.

The group was recently nominated for the National Diversity Awards 2014 and has so far received over 111 votes. 

Members of the group identify pages, individual posts, and photographs that promote hate on Facebook in the hope of getting them removed.

Bev Myers
Bev Myers, who also works to administrate the anti-hate group

Such pages include, for example, ‘Jewish Ritual Murders’, ‘Crooks with Hooks’, ‘Death to Islam’, ‘Allah is Shit’ and ‘DTQ Death to Queers’ which contain very graphic hateful depictions of Jews, Muslims or the LGBT community. Other pages target people with disabilities.

Facebook has official Community Standards which enables individuals to report distasteful or prejudiced posts, photographs and pages, but in reality neglects to enforce them. Facebook have made the following statement on the subject:

“Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”

Depictions of Jews as greedy or untruthful, often depicted with antisemitic cartoon pictures of stereotypical Jews, are common on Facebook. References to Islam as a religion which advocates paedophilia and violence, with images of sexual activity involving a cartoon-image of Mohammed and a pig are found elsewhere.

Yet Facebook refuses to acknowledge they offend even their own standards. To date, around 300 pages and over 1000 individual offensive posts and photographs have been removed, but the experience of the group is that the volume of reports, rather than the content of the page, is what leads to successful removal. Furthermore, many pages are replicated within hours of being taken down and Facebook does nothing to prevent this.

Our group members have also successfully lobbied their MPs with the aim of bringing this issue to the attention of Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. To date, despite many requests, both direct and through MPs, Facebook has refused to meet with our administration team to discuss our concerns.

We have a Facebook page and website where prospective members can request to be added to the group, or you can email saynotohatebook@gmail.com. Sadly, our group has to be classified as ‘secret’ to protect the members from attacks from the offensive Facebookers who we strive to remove.

There is also a Twitter account @opposehatepages, which the group uses to notify celebrities and politicians of hate pages referring to those individuals.

Join our campaign to protect minorities from vile hate and abuse on Facebook, and help it become the place of friendship, networking and fun its creators designed it to be. 

  • You can nominate Say No to Hatebook in the National Diversity Awards until this Friday, 18th July. Click here!
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