2022-02-24 – Twice this week, Facebook reprimanded me. What do you think about that?
A couple of days ago I responded to a post about church congregation size. I responded, saying: “Jews only need a minyan of 10.” Facebook admonished me that this comment potentially went against community standards for hate speech.
Yesterday, I responded to a question about what movie would have been hot when my grandparents were young. Since my dad was born in 1921, I arbitrarily chose and earlier date: 1915. I google and found that D.W. Griffith’s movie “Birth of a Nation” was the big release in that year. So that’s what I attempted to posts. I say “attempted” because I got an error message saying that something had happened and they were “trying to fix it.” I tried several times. They didn’t say so, but I also tried posting different comments. The different comments posted successfully. But the comments with the words “Birth of a Nation” kept having difficulty. And Facebook was diligently trying to fix it.
I’m calling that censorship.
Of course, I know why they would censor “Birth of a Nation.” It was a famously racist movie. I knew that. But I certainly wasn’t posting anything racist. I was responding to a question about the big release in the time of my grandparents. This followed a comment in which I said that my dad was 18 when the Wizard of Oz was released. And the original post showed people standing in line for the release of Star Wars. (I could have been standing in that line.)
What was Facebook trying to fix when they told me they were trying to fix the problem? Racism? Good luck with that.
Step one might be for Facebook stop being racist itself.
So, yes, I know they had an algorithm looking for a variety of racist things. The odds are that people posting about “Birth of a Nation” are promoting racism. The algorithm sees the words and suddenly something’s broke and Facebook is trying to fix it. Only the problem never gets fixed.
Tuesday’s word, I surmise, was “Jew.” It’s remotely possible that the trigger word was “minyan,” but I doubt it. I’m guessing that most Facebook threads that use the word “minyan” are Orthodox Jews looking for a 10th man to make up their prayer quorum.
And while Jews use the word “Jew” as the normative word to refer to themselves—without any irony or political zetz (zetz is Yiddish for “punch”)—there are a lot of bad actors out there who use the word as a derogatory term. To them there is no nonderogatory term. So “Jew” is the same as “kike” and all the rest. So Facebook’s algorithm is combing all their posts looking for the word “Jew” and warning people that it might be hate speech.
Facebook’s algorithm is antisemitic. Because Facebook is accepting the antisemite’s use of the word as normative. Would they ever tag the word “Christian” as hate speech. Lots of people in this world consider the word “Christian” to be a derogatory term. But Facebook isn’t accepting that use as normative. For Jews, they are letting the antisemites decide. So while their algorithm will certainly find some nasty things that someone wants to say about Jews, it is chilling my every-day non-nasty postings about my own people.
It is a confusing world, of course. I frequently encounter kind and open non-Jews who are confused about this very thing. They struggle with various circumlocutions (“person of the Jewish persuasion”?) because they don’t want to say the word “Jew.” Because they’ve been convinced that they shouldn’t say the J-word because it is supposedly derogatory and vile.
But they don’t have a good alternative because . . . the word “Jew” is what we are called in the English language. It’s not derogatory. So feel free to call me a Jew.
And Facebook: you need to find some other algorithm in your fight against hate speech.
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