A clumsy, irrational approach to “hate groups” on Facebook

Facebook’s approach to “hate groups” threatens to purge the platform of conservative users, and threatens to actually strengthen and legitimize the very white nationalists that Facebook seeks to silence. It strengthens and energizes the Trump wing of the Republican Party. This is a stupid policy based on the irrational rantings of a so-called “anti-hate” organization that is in no way credible.

A week ago, Facebook removed pages associated with detestable “white nationalist” Richard Spencer. Mark Zuckerberg bragged that Facebook does not allow “hate groups” on its platform, and Facebook immediately banned Spencer’s pages when it was pointed out that they were there. That, of course, is not the end of it. From the Vice.com article on the banning:

And yet a quick search on Facebook turned up scores of pages linked to groups classified as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC is a terrible source. They list mainstream orthodox Christian groups in the same category as neo-Nazis, the Westboro Baptist “church” and the Ku Klux Klan. These include the Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and the Traditional Values Coalition. If the Southern Poverty Law Center gets to determine who is allowed to be on Facebook, then all of these mainstream orthodox Christian groups will banned. I will also be gone, as well as the fan page for my blog. We might as well ban conservative Christian elected officials and candidates for office too.

If Facebook wants to help competitors grow, however, giving SPLC ban authority is how you do it. By all means, ban mainstream orthodox Christians from your platform, and watch as people set up shop elsewhere and watch as conservative and Christian users abandon the platform in droves. Facebook already has a bad reputation among conservatives, and handing authority to the extremists at SPLC will be the easiest way to provoke a mass exodus.

If Facebook did actually ban orthodox Christians from running Pages, it would have the opposite effect on real hate groups: It would legitimize them. Have you heard the story of the boy who cried wolf? Unfairly maligning Christians as “hate groups” will make people skeptical of the classifications of real hate groups. Racists can then make an appeal that they and Christians have a common enemy. They have been doing that already, and with the tribalist notion of “fighting the Left” that appeal would be more common.

Finally, this would strengthen the Trump wing of the Republican Party and expand his influence. The biggest reason Trump won the 2016 primaries – despite the fact that other candidates were more conservative, more principled and more qualified – was the mistaken belief that he was the only one willing to take the fight to the Left. As mainstream orthodox Christians are denied a platform on social media, they will become more tribal.

Is this what Facebook wants?

Facebook is playing with fire. We have already seen an exodus from Facebook over privacy issues, whether the concerns are legitimate or not. Telling tens of millions of mainstream orthodox Christians that our views are not welcome on the #1 social media site will only drive more people away – and that will reduce advertising dollars dramatically. It will expand the influence of platforms like Gab and possibly create new competitors. This is a foolish business model for Facebook.

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