Liberals to introduce new hate speech bill, possibly bringing back controversial Section 13

Virtue signalling, given likely election call?

Right before the House of Commons breaks for summer, the Liberal government will introduce a new bill tackling hate speech, which could bring back a controversial law under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Justice Minister David Lametti has given notice the government will introduce a new bill, dealing with “hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech.” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has been working on a new online harms bill with Justice and other ministries, though government spokespeople declined to say Tuesday whether that bill is the legislation that will be tabled by Lametti.

One possibility is that Lametti’s bill could leave out online regulation and focus only on changes to hate speech law the government consulted on last year — though if that includes bringing back a civil remedy for hate speech, the bill still stands to garner much opposition.

Source: Liberals to introduce new hate speech bill, possibly bringing back controversial Section 13

Douglas Todd: B.C. Muslims rattled by confrontational Victoria imam

Certainly hate speech, and interesting point about the impact of the Harper government’s repeal of provisions allowing citizens to launch civil actions against online hate speech:

A militant imam in Victoria who openly calls Jews, Christians, atheists and free-speech advocates “filthy” and “evil” is causing distress among Canadian Muslims, and there are calls for him to be prosecuted for hate speech.

“Younus Kathrada is not taken seriously in our community. Somebody making those claims is not part of Islam. But I guess there is a fringe element that follows him,” says Haroon Khan, a trustee at Vancouver’s Al-Jamia mosque, which belongs to the B.C. Muslim Association and often holds interfaith events.

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. Muslims rattled by confrontational Victoria imam

Saudi Arabia Is Scrubbing Hate Speech from School Books. Why That’s a Win for the Trump Administration

Reality a bit more nuanced but yes, reflects progress:

Students in Saudi Arabia, like so many around the world, have traded in-person classrooms for logging onto an app during the COVID-19 pandemic. But they’re also experiencing other major shifts in Saudi Arabia’s official, country-wide curriculum, with new reforms stripping out lessons of hatred toward the “other” – whether Christian, Jewish, or gay – and dictats to defend the Islamic faith through violence.

The Kingdom’s latest batch of textbooks has for the first time removed sections calling for non-believers to be punished by death, and predicting an apocalyptic final battle in which Muslims will kill all Jews, according to a report released Tuesday by a Jerusalem-based think tank that analyzes global curricula for extremist and intolerant views.

The “trend line is cause for optimism,” says Marcus Sheff, CEO of the nonprofit Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT SE. “We do see a significant change…a real institutional effort … at the highest levels to make a change to modernize the curriculum to remove offense.”

That said, the books, which are used in the public K-12 curriculum and made freely available throughout the Arab world, still characterize Jews and Christians as “enemies of Islam.” They say that infidels “do not have any good deeds” and will spend eternity in hell, according to the report, made available exclusively to TIME prior to its publication. “No question about it, there is still a way to go,” says Sheff.

It’s a potentially critical change in a country that has been widely criticized for teaching and exporting its strict interpretation of Sunni Islam across the Muslim world. Roughly two-thirds of the Saudi population is under 30, but an old guard of Saudi royals, religious scholars and long-serving government officials remains both powerful and deeply conservative. The curriculum is taught at Saudi Arabia’s some 30,000 schools inside the country, available to all its citizens, as well as at Saudi schools overseas, according to the Saudi embassy in Washington’s website. The free textbooks are also downloaded by teachers throughout the Sunni Muslim world, reaching potentially millions of students every year.

Trump Administration officials say the changes are proof that Saudi Arabia is turning a corner on extremism, thanks in part to their quiet lobbying to put textbook reform near the top of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan to modernize the Kingdom. A former senior State Department official says President Donald Trump helped facilitate MBS’s reform drive by paying attention to the Kingdom’s fears of Iran’s regional ambitions. “By countering Iran, and engaging privately with them on human rights issues, we have expanded the space for MBS to modernize the Kingdom, and continue the reforms that he has wanted to make,” the former official says.

A State Department official tells TIME that the Trump Administration is “encouraged by the report that finds positive changes in influential textbooks used throughout Saudi Arabia,” adding that the Administration supports “textbooks free of intolerance and violence” and is also backing the development of a pilot Saudi teacher training program. Both officials spoke anonymously in order to describe sensitive and private conversations with the Saudis.

A Saudi official, asked to comment on the broad outlines of the IMPACT-SE report, tells TIME that “education reform is an ongoing process that will continue into the foreseeable future,” as part of Vision 2030, with the “development of more effective teachers and students … as one of its primary goals.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the controversial subject.

Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, told a virtual audience in November that Saudi education officials have found “some material that was deemed objectionable … offensive” in the Kingdom’s textbooks, and made “a very concerted effort to remove all of it from the entire curriculum,” and replace “this offensive material with lessons that promote moderation, toleration and peaceful coexistence.” The IMPACT-SE report did not find new material had been added for the deleted sections in the latest revisions, however.

This is the second major revision of the nation’s textbooks during the Trump Administration. Last year’s version dropped many of the worst racist and anti-Semitic references but was still “suffused with extremism,” Sheff says, spreading the kind of hateful ideology that has fueled attacks on westerners from 9/11 to the 2019 shooting of U.S. personnel at Naval Air Station Pensacola by Saudi Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, an officer of the Royal Saudi Air Force, who killed three Navy Airmen. Alshamrani, who was 21 when he carried out the attacks, would have studied the earlier, more extreme, unaltered version of the texts, in which Sheff says “the West was blamed for for every conceivable evil.”

One of the report’s peer reviewers, David Weinberg, Washington Director for International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, says “some of the most intolerant parts of the curriculum have now been removed, which is truly remarkable,” including the removal of passages calling for the death penalty for adultery, acts of homosexuality and perceived acts of magic. But he agrees problematic passages remain, including references to Jews who commit wrongdoing being turned into “real monkeys,” and passages that “encourage enmity and demonization toward infidels and polytheists,” a blanket term used for Jews, Christians, Shi’ite Muslims and other perceived nonbelievers, Weinberg says. “They’re not there yet.”

Ali Shihabi, a Saudi author and political analyst based in New York and Europe, says curricula reform in Saudi Arabia has been underway since 9/11, and “accelerated” under MBS, but that the effort has been “resisted by a ‘conservative deep state’” in the Saudi education ministry. “The process has been one of two steps forward, and one back, but forward nonetheless,” he says.

MBS has made landmark social reforms since taking power in 2017, advancing women’s rights in particular by allowing them to drive, get a passport and travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian. But for watchdog groups like Human Rights Watch, those reforms don’t offset acatalog of human rights abuses, including the military campaign against Houthis in Yemen that has killed scores of civilians, the jailing of women’s rights activists, and the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered and disappeared by Saudi officials at their consulate in Istanbul.

MBS had initially been feted as an agent of change, named one of TIME’s most influential people in April 2018. But Khashoggi’s brutal killing in October of that year drew widespread international condemnation and raised fundamental questions over the young Crown Prince’s commitment to basic human rights. MBS has denied knowledge of the plot, and in September, the Kingdom sentenced eight people to long prison terms for taking part in the brutal extrajudicial killing.

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to “reassess” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, giving priority to “democratic values and human rights.” In a statement on the two-year anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, Biden said, “Saudi operatives, reportedly acting at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, murdered and dismembered” him, adding that the Saudi journalist and his loved ones still “deserve accountability.”

‘Words and deeds have to match.’

The MBS-blessed reforms to the 2020 textbooks include removing most references to Jihad, broadly defined as the fight against enemies of Islam and interpreted differently across the Muslim world. The previous version included an example that declared violent Jihad as the pinnacle of Islamic teaching. Just a decade ago, Sheff says, the curriculum centered around preparing students for Jihad and martyrdom.

The texts no longer include the anti-Semitic trope that “Zionist Forces” run the world and are plotting to expand Israel’s territory from the Nile to the Euphrates, according to the IMPACT-SE report. And for the first time, a key Saudi religious teaching has been deleted that describes an end-of-days battle between Muslims and Jews in which all the Jews would be killed.

Ali Al-Ahmed, a critic of the Saudi government from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Gulf Studies, confirms the latest textbook editions no longer include references to this final battle, also called the fifth sign of Armageddon – which he said included the Jews being “annihilated” – nor the sections saying that apostasy, adultery and homosexuality are punishable by death. A chapter concerning Jihad was also removed, says Al-Ahmed, who has done his own independent review of Saudi textbooks. “The fact that the Trump Administration is in power made it easier, because they have a stronger relationship,” Al-Ahmed says. “I give them credit for it.”

But, he and others caution, simply removing the references is not enough. “If you don’t talk about Jihad, you leave it for others to interpret. You need to talk about it the right way,” and replace the hateful material with “more proactive instructions on how to deal with other faiths.” He points out that Saudi scholar Dr. Hassan Farhan al-Maliki is still jailed in Saudi Arabia and facing a possible death sentence for allegedly confessing to the crime of “calling for freedom of belief” and criticizing some of the more extreme practices of Saudi Salafi Wahhabism, the strict sect of Islam upon which Saudi Arabia was founded.

Farah Pandith, author of How We Win on how to defeat extremism, agrees the Kingdom’s “words and deeds have to match.” Pandith was part of efforts to encourage Saudi education reform during the Bush Administration and as the Obama Administration’s first Special Representative to Muslim Communities, after the attacks of 9/11, in which most of the hijackers were Saudi. Pandith says while the latest textbooks have removed “some horrifying things about homosexuality and sorcery” and altered language that called for violence against nonbelievers, the changes need to be matched by steps to counteract the “billions” the Kingdom has spent to export textbooks and clerics steeped in the uncompromising Wahhabi sect’s interpretation of Islam.

“You’ve got to be able to say it is okay for different countries…to have Muslims practice Islam the way they would like to,” Pandith says. The Saudis haven’t added anything to teach “respect for the diversity of Islam,” she says. “By omitting that, they’re already saying their way is the only way.”

Source: Saudi Arabia Is Scrubbing Hate Speech from School Books. Why That’s a Win for the Trump Administration

Saudi Arabia Rebuffs Trump Administration’s Requests to Stop Teaching Hate Speech in Schools

“Modernization” only goes so far:

In 2018, Saudi women took to the streets around the country, permitted to drive cars themselves for the first time. That same year, unrelated men and women were allowed to mix at a Formula-E car race and concert extravaganza, listening to DJ David Quetta and the Black Eyed Peas—unthinkable not long ago in a country where religious police used to enforce a strict separation of the sexes.

That’s part of the raft of highly visible social reforms that Saudi Arabia has launched in recent years as the Kingdom tries to reposition itself as a modern global economic powerhouse. But you don’t have to look far to see a very different country, where officials plotted the violent murder of The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi, where a young Saudi Air Force officer studied before deploying for training in Florida where he shot three U.S. Navy Airmen last fall, and where millions of children go to school every day and read state-sanctioned hate speech in their text books.

For a White House that seems to have given Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a wide berth on the first two incidents, the Trump Administration has been pushing hard behind the scenes for the last one to change. Since 2017, when President Donald Trump marked Saudi Arabia as a key regional ally, the Administration has seen the state’s textbooks — which teach a version of fundamental Islam so extreme it was used by the Islamic State — as a security threat and a key part of its efforts to fight terrorism.

Two new reviews of Saudi government textbooks show not much has changed, despite these efforts. In 2019, Saudi students were still being instructed to keep westerners at a distance, to consider Jews “monkeys” and “assassins” bent on harming Muslim holy places, and to punish gays by death. All those sentiments are included in text books that are required reading for Muslim children in Saudi Arabia from kindergarten through high school, according to a review by Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT SE, a nonprofit whose research has been cited by the UN and the Anti-Defamation League.

A second organization highlighted similar disturbing material. “Students are being taught that Christians, Jews and other Muslims are ‘enemies’ of the true believer, and to befriend and show respect only to other true believers, specifically the Wahhabis,” the strict sect of Islam upon which Saudi Arabia was founded, says Ali Al-Ahmed of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Gulf Studies, in a preview for TIME of his own meticulous review of the 2019 textbooks due out in March. The two groups have shared their results with U.S. government officials.

Both reviews acknowledge there have been some changes to the Saudi curriculum, designed to appease the Kingdom’s western critics. Al-Ahmed notes that in one passage, the phrase “Christians and Jews” has been replaced with phrase “the enemies of Islam,” but says other parts of the same textbook make clear that Christians and Jews remain in the ‘enemies’ camp. Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT SE, says some of the most notable changes in the curriculum fit in the Crown Prince’s ambitious modernization plan for the country, called Vision 2030, such as depicting women as entrepreneurs. “But they are encouraged to be entrepreneurs while not befriending westerners they would do business with,” Sheff adds.

The slow pace of change and the Saudi government’s refusal to do more has been a source of disappointment to Trump, a senior administration official tells TIME. Trump joins a long line of U.S. leaders, UN bodies and human and civil rights groups that have been pressuring the Saudi government for decades to stop proselytizing its harsh version of Wahhabi Islam, spread inside and outside the Kingdom by its clerics’ sermons online or given in mosques that Saudi money built. The government freely distributes hundreds of thousands of Wahhabi Qurans around the world, and makes its school textbooks freely available on the internet. Since the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., largely by Saudi-born jihadists, every administration that has occupied the White House has asked the Saudi government to revise what it teaches its children, with only glacial change as a result.

Trump Administration officials say they’ve been working in private to point out the dangers of this kind of hateful language to Saudi officials, but they are reluctant to publicly criticize Riyadh’s foot-dragging. “We can’t just demand from a sovereign nation ally an immediate fix,” a second senior administration official told TIME. “The Saudis are crucial to our national security efforts in the region, mainly those in places like Yemen… They have provided us a lot of support in those fights that we share.”

The Bush and Obama Administrations also kept similar critiques behind closed doors, according to Farah Pandith, who served in both administrations and was appointed first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities. “They were our partners in the post-9/11 context in fighting al Qaeda. We wanted to do this in a way that allowed them to keep a little bit of dignity but also show leadership,” she told TIME. “It should not be others forcing them to do the right thing.” She says the Saudi government has dismissed some of the more extreme preachers and taken some of their most hate-filled sermons off the internet, but much of the material is still accessible, including in the national curriculum. “It’s a question of scale. I traveled to 80 countries as representative to Muslim communities. None has more influence than the Saudis.”

Saudi critics like say the curriculum is perpetuating extremist violence, including the actions of Saudi Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, who is accused of opening fire on U.S. personnel at Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6th, killing three Navy Airmen and injuring eight. Alshamrani, an officer of the Royal Saudi Air Force, had armed himself with a legally purchased 9mm Glock handgun, only days after reportedly showing videos of mass shootings to other Saudi students training at the base as part of a longstanding U.S. military training program.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom says the material Alshamrani would have ingested at school back home was so extreme that the State Department found it was used by the Islamic State during its reign of terror in Iraq and Syria. “Until ISIS started publishing their own ‘Al-Harouf’ series of children’s textbooks, ISIS used Saudi textbooks in their schools to train the cubs of the caliphate,” Bloom told TIME, a subject she detailed in her 2019 book, Small Arms: Children and Terrorism. “The Saudi textbooks promoted a view of the world that was virtually indistinguishable from ISIS ideology: hatred of the west; hatred of other Muslims, that are not Sunni; hatred of Jews and antagonism towards women.” Al-Ahmed says the Saudi officer would have had to prove mastery of such malevolent material to rise in the military ranks.

None of the Trump Administration officials would go so far as to blame such lessons for the Saudi officer’s alleged actions, but they concede if the education had been reformed shortly after 9/11 in 2001, when Alshamrani would have been around two years old, it may have helped. “Unfortunately, Pensacola is a reminder — a harsh one — of work left undone,” an administration official said.

“You could go back to 2001,” a second senior official added, referring to the attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans. “If they had changed their textbooks in 1975, we’d be in a better spot.” The administration officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity to brief TIME on their sensitive discussions with the Saudi Kingdom over the issue.

Among the gradual changes IMPACT SE notes in the 2019 Saudi textbooks include striking several references of Christians as “pure infidels” or unbelievers, and removing the statement that “Christianity in its current state is an invalid and perverted religion.” The Christian faith is no longer defined as a “colonial religious movement that subjected Muslims to Western ideas and stopped the spread of Islam,” the report said, all of which are positive changes if your number one supporter is President Trump, whose base is largely made up of evangelical Christians.

Also deleted is the claim that the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” are “a secret Jewish plan to take over the world,” and that Jews believe the world was promised to them and that it’s their right to control it. But Zionism is still described as a racist movement that uses money, the media, drugs, and women to achieve its goals, according to IMPACT SE’s review.

A Saudi official told TIME that the Kingdom “is implementing a comprehensive program to reform and improve all its educational institutions,” which include “ongoing” reforms to the textbooks. The official declined to comment on an advance copy of IMPACT-SE’s report made available to him by TIME.

Amb. Nathan Sales, the State Department’s Acting Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, asked the Saudi government to make further changes to the textbooks, but was rebuffed, a senior administration official told TIME. The State Department declined to comment on Sales’ interaction, but a senior State Department official said that “the Saudi government has worked to modernize the educational curriculum in public schools” but that “some textbooks containing derogatory and intolerant references to Shia and non-Muslims remained in use.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the friction with the Kingdom.

Administration officials are still hoping for bigger reforms this summer, when the government publishes the 2020 edition of the K through 12 textbooks.

Pandith says the textbooks aren’t the only thing that needs changing, as the hundreds of thousands of Saudi Korans distributed around the world also portray Wahhabism as the only true version of Islam. “If you want to demonstrate that you see the folly of what you did before…let’s do a buyback program,” she says, an idea she outlines in her 2019 book, How We Win.

“If MBS (the Crown Prince) wanted to overhaul the viewpoint that they are the only Muslims that matter, he could do it in a minute with the kind of government they have,” she says. “The choice to do it piecemeal means their heart isn’t in this endeavor.”

Source: Saudi Arabia Rebuffs Trump Administration’s Requests to Stop Teaching Hate Speech in Schools

Who determines what’s hate? A Canadian firm uses technology to decide

Interesting, both in terms of the approach as well as some of the challenges and potential pitfalls:

To curb hate speech — and ultimately, the violence it can spur — Timothy Quinn and his team have spent years compiling the most vile words found on the internet.

His Toronto firm, Hatebase, relies on software that digs through the web several times an hour to spot potentially hateful words, which are then flagged to NGOs interested in countering hate and to social media companies.

Hatebase’s ever-growing, multilingual hate speech lexicon of more than 3,600 terms has attracted big-name partners around the world. But the practice has led to concerns about censorship, and whether computers are equipped to navigate complicated streams of text and decipher what is hateful.

“It’s a horrible job for a human being to do,” Quinn said. “You need some degree of automation to handle the worst of the worst.”

Launched in 2013 as a partner of the Sentinel Project — a genocide-prevention group — Hatebase was initially meant as a way to track early signs of mass atrocities. It would analyze potentially dangerous online chatter in conflict zones in hopes of preventing violence.

Early signs of violence

Online messages may have served as precursors to more recent, high-profile killings, too. Suspects in the Toronto van attack, the El Paso Walmart shooting and the massacre at the mosque in New Zealand, among others, are said to have spread spiteful content online in the lead-up to their rampage.

Although Hatebase’s automated social media monitoring engine, known as Hatebrain, is not designed to single out users, Quinn said a noticeable spike in online hate speech can sometimes precede targeted violence.

“We’re not looking for the one active shooter,” Quinn said in an interview. “We’re looking for raw trends around language being used to discriminate against groups of people online.”

The firm’s database includes terms in 97 languages, spotted online more than a million times from users in at least 184 countries. In Canada, gay people and women represent the most-targeted groups, according to a country-specific page not yet made public, but seen by a CBC News reporter.

How it’s used

Hatebase licenses its software to tech companies, including the Chinese-owned video sharing app TikTok and other social media firms. Quinn said his company works with well-known Silicon Valley firms but declined to name them, citing non-disclosure agreements.

Hatebase only provides the data. It’s up to clients to decide how to use it, for instance by blocking users who use hateful words, deleting their messages or flagging content to human moderators.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) told CBC it’s concerned about the way the data is used, and whether it can form the basis for excluding some points of view from online discussion.

CCLA’s Cara Zwibel is concerned the definition of hate speech may be too restrictive.

Words “that most people in ordinary conversation would think is hate speech, is not hate speech under the law,” she said.

Hatebase applies a broad definition to hate speech: “any term which broadly categorizes a specific group of people based on malignant, qualitative and/or subjective attributes — particularly if those attributes pertain to ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, disability or class.”

More than words

Zwibel stressed the context around questionable content — not just the words themselves — must be analyzed before determining whether it should be taken down.

“I am worried about using machines to do this kind of work,” she said.

Humans grade the entries into Hatebase’s lexicon — from “mildly offensive” (such as “bimbo”) to “extremely offensive” (like the N-word). Quinn said Hatebase also uses several factors to analyze the way words are being used in a sentence, such as by searching for “pilot fish.”

A reference to the small aquatic creatures that live alongside sharks, pilot fish are words or symbols often attached to targeted slurs. Quinn said pilot fish could include the word “asshole” or the cartoon-turned-hate symbol, Pepe the Frog.

Hatebase also provides free services to non-profit groups. Its website lists the UN’s human rights agency and the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League as partners. The company also says more than 275 universities and colleges, including Harvard and Oxford, use Hatebase data for research.

In Ottawa, the United for All Coalition — a local group recently formed to counter hate and violence — is considering working with Hatebase to identify neighbourhoods where residents may be vulnerable to radicalization.

“It’s not about targeting or fingering people who are engaging in hate or dangerous speech, it’s about knowing where it’s happening,” said Julie McKercher, an Ottawa Police co-ordinator for the MERIT program, which is part of the Coalition.

She said geolocation data obtained by Hatebase could point authorities and community groups in the right direction.

‘You’re always playing catch-up’

Another challenge emerges when trying to track hate speech: subtle changes to words made to circumvent digital filters. Tony McAleer, a former skinhead recruiter living in B.C., compares it to the arcade game Whac-A-Mole.

“The groups themselves will change the language they’re using, so you’re always playing catch-up,” he said.

Hatebase, for instance, lists the word “ghey” as “an intentional misspelling of ‘gay’ meant to avoid censorship and mock homosexual behaviour.” A recent search of public tweets found the spelling used frequently.

McAleer, who recently published his memoir, The Cure for Hate, said hateful words shouldn’t just be suppressed without proposing an alternative message.

“When you censor something, it becomes more popular than it ever was.”

Timothy Quinn at Hatebase said the company’s mandate “is in no way to limit free speech.” He agrees counter-messaging and understanding the root of hate is a better strategy.

“We’re really in the business of making data available, so organizations can understand the scale of the problem.”

Source: Who determines what’s hate? A Canadian firm uses technology to decide

Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate – The New York Times

Good long and interesting read, highlighting a number of the issues and practical aspects involved:

Security is tight at this brick building on the western edge of Berlin. Inside, a sign warns: “Everybody without a badge is a potential spy!”

Spread over five floors, hundreds of men and women sit in rows of six scanning their computer screens. All have signed nondisclosure agreements. Four trauma specialists are at their disposal seven days a week.

They are the agents of Facebook. And they have the power to decide what is free speech and what is hate speech.

This is a deletion center, one of Facebook’s largest, with more than 1,200 content moderators. They are cleaning up content — from terrorist propaganda to Nazi symbols to child abuse — that violates the law or the company’s community standards.

Germany, home to a tough new online hate speech law, has become a laboratory for one of the most pressing issues for governments today: how and whether to regulate the world’s biggest social network.

Around the world, Facebook and other social networking platforms are facing a backlash over their failures to safeguard privacy, disinformation campaigns and the digital reach of hate groups.

In India, seven people were beaten to death after a false viral message on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp. In Myanmar, violence against the Rohingya minority was fueled, in part, by misinformation spread on Facebook. In the United States, Congress called Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to testify about the company’s inability to protect its users’ privacy.

As the world confronts these rising forces, Europe, and Germany in particular, have emerged as the de facto regulators of the industry, exerting influence beyond their own borders. Berlin’s digital crackdown on hate speech, which took effect on Jan. 1, is being closely watched by other countries. And German officials are playing a major role behind one of Europe’s most aggressive moves to rein in technology companies, strict data privacy rules that take effect across the European Union on May 25 and are prompting global changes.

“For them, data is the raw material that makes them money,” said Gerd Billen, secretary of state in Germany’s Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. “For us, data protection is a fundamental right that underpins our democratic institutions.”

Germany’s troubled history has placed it on the front line of a modern tug-of-war between democracies and digital platforms.

In the country of the Holocaust, the commitment against hate speech is as fierce as the commitment to free speech. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is only available in an annotated version. Swastikas are illegal. Inciting hatred is punishable by up to five years in jail.

But banned posts, pictures and videos have routinely lingered on Facebook and other social media platforms. Now companies that systematically fail to remove “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours face fines of up to 50 million euros.

The deletion center predates the legislation, but its efforts have taken on new urgency. Every day content moderators in Berlin, hired by a third-party firm and working exclusively on Facebook, pore over thousands of posts flagged by users as upsetting or potentially illegal and make a judgment: Ignore, delete or, in particularly tricky cases, “escalate” to a global team of Facebook lawyers with expertise in German regulation.

Some decisions to delete are easy. Posts about Holocaust denial and genocidal rants against particular groups like refugees are obvious ones for taking down.

Others are less so. On Dec. 31, the day before the new law took effect, a far-right lawmaker reacted to an Arabic New Year’s tweet from the Cologne police, accusing them of appeasing “barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping groups of men.”

The request to block a screenshot of the lawmaker’s post wound up in the queue of Nils, a 35-year-old agent in the Berlin deletion center. His judgment was to let it stand. A colleague thought it should come down. Ultimately, the post was sent to lawyers in Dublin, London, Silicon Valley and Hamburg. By the afternoon it had been deleted, prompting a storm of criticism about the new legislation, known here as the “Facebook Law.”

“A lot of stuff is clear-cut,” Nils said. Facebook, citing his safety, did not allow him to give his surname. “But then there is the borderline stuff.”

Complicated cases have raised concerns that the threat of the new rules’ steep fines and 24-hour window for making decisions encourage “over-blocking” by companies, a sort of defensive censorship of content that is not actually illegal.

The far-right Alternative of Germany, a noisy and prolific user of social media, has been quick to proclaim “the end of free speech.” Human rights organizations have warned that the legislation was inspiring authoritarian governments to copy it.

Other people argue that the law simply gives a private company too much authority to decide what constitutes illegal hate speech in a democracy, an argument that Facebook, which favored voluntary guidelines, made against the law.

“It is perfectly appropriate for the German government to set standards,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But we think it’s a bad idea for the German government to outsource the decision of what is lawful and what is not.”

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe and the leader of the company’s lobbying effort against the German legislation, put it more simply: “We don’t want to be the arbiters of free speech.”

German officials counter that social media platforms are the arbiters anyway.

It all boils down to one question, said Mr. Billen, who helped draw up the new legislation: “Who is sovereign? Parliament or Facebook?”

Learning From (German) History

When Nils applied for a job at the deletion center, the first question the recruiter asked him was: “Do you know what you will see here?”

Nils has seen it all. Child torture. Mutilations. Suicides. Even murder: He once saw a video of a man cutting a heart out of a living human being.

And then there is hate.

“You see all the ugliness of the world here,” Nils said. “Everyone is against everyone else. Everyone is complaining about that other group. And everyone is saying the same horrible things.”

The issue is deeply personal for Nils. He has a 4-year-old daughter. “I’m also doing this for her,” he said.

The center here is run by Arvato, a German service provider owned by the conglomerate Bertelsmann. The agents have a broad purview, reviewing content from a half-dozen countries. Those with a focus on Germany must know Facebook’s community standards and, as of January, the basics of German hate speech and defamation law.

“Two agents looking at the same post should come up with the same decision,” says Karsten König, who manages Arvato’s partnership with Facebook.

The Berlin center opened with 200 employees in 2015, as Germany was opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, posed with Chancellor Angela Merkel and posted the image on Facebook. It instantly became a symbol of her decision to allowing in hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Soon it also became a symbol of the backlash.

The image showed up in false reports linking Mr. Modamani to terrorist attacks in Brussels and on a Christmas market in Berlin. He sought an injunction against Facebook to stop such posts from being shared but eventually lost.

The arrival of nearly 1.4 million migrants in Germany has tested the country’s resolve to keep a tight lid on hate speech. The law on illegal speech was long-established but enforcement in the digital realm was scattershot before the new legislation.

Posts calling refugees rapists, Neanderthals and scum survived for weeks, according to jugendschutz.net, a publicly funded internet safety organization. Many were never taken down. Researchers at jugendschutz.net reported a tripling in observed hate speech in the second half of 2015.

Mr. Billen, the secretary of state in charge of the new law, was alarmed. In September 2015, he convened executives from Facebook and other social media sites at the justice ministry, a building that was once the epicenter of state propaganda for the Communist East. A task force for fighting hate speech was created. A couple of months later, Facebook and other companies signed a joint declaration, promising to “examine flagged content and block or delete the majority of illegal posts within 24 hours.”

But the problem did not go away. Over the 15 months that followed, independent researchers, hired by the government, twice posed as ordinary users and flagged illegal hate speech. During the tests, they found that Facebook had deleted 46 percent and 39 percent.

“They knew that they were a platform for criminal behavior and for calls to commit criminal acts, but they presented themselves to us as a wolf in sheep skin,” said Mr. Billen, a poker-faced civil servant with stern black frames on his glasses.

By March 2017, the German government had lost patience and started drafting legislation. The Network Enforcement Law was born, setting out 21 types of content that are “manifestly illegal” and requiring social media platforms to act quickly.

Officials say early indications suggest the rules have served their purpose. Facebook’s performance on removing illegal hate speech in Germany rose to 100 percent over the past year, according to the latest spot check of the European Union.

Platforms must publish biannual reports on their efforts. The first is expected in July.

At Facebook’s Berlin offices, Mr. Allan acknowledged that under the earlier voluntary agreement, the company had not acted decisively enough at first.

“It was too little and it was too slow,” he said. But, he added, “that has changed.”

He cited another independent report for the European Commission from last summer that showed Facebook was by then removing 80 percent of hate speech posts in Germany.

The reason for the improvement was not German legislation, he said, but a voluntary code of conduct with the European Union. Facebook’s results have improved in all European countries, not just in Germany, Mr. Allan said.

“There was no need for legislation,” he said.

Mr. Billen disagrees.

“They could have prevented the law,” he said. YouTube scored 90 percent in last year’s monitoring exercise. If other platforms had done the same, there would be no law today, he said.

A Regulatory Dilemma

Germany’s hard-line approach to hate speech and data privacy once made it an outlier in Europe. The country’s stance is now more mainstream, an evolution seen in the justice commissioner in Brussels.

Vera Jourova, the justice commissioner, deleted her Facebook account in 2015 because she could not stand the hate anymore.

“It felt good,” she said about pressing the button. She added: “It felt like taking back control.”

But Ms. Jourova, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in what is now the Czech Republic, had long been skeptical about governments legislating any aspect of free speech, including hate speech. Her father lost his job after making a disparaging comment about the Soviet invasion in 1968, barring her from going to university until she married and took her husband’s name.

“I lived half my life in the atmosphere driven by Soviet propaganda,” she said. “The golden principle was: If you repeat a lie a hundred times it becomes the truth.”

When Germany started considering a law, she instead preferred a voluntary code of conduct. In 2016, platforms like Facebook promised European users easy reporting tools and committed to removing most illegal posts brought to their attention within 24 hours.

The approach worked well enough, Ms. Jourova said. It was also the quickest way to act because the 28 member states in the European Union differed so much about whether and how to legislate.

But the stance of many governments toward Facebook has hardened since it emerged that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of up to 87 million users. Representatives of the European Parliament have asked Mr. Zuckerberg to come to Brussels to “clarify issues related to the use of personal data” and he has agreed to come as soon as next week.

Ms. Jourova, whose job is to protect the data of over 500 million Europeans, has hardened her stance as well.

“Our current system relies on trust and this did nothing to improve trust,” she said. “The question now is how do we continue?”

The European Commission is considering German-style legislation for online content related to terrorism, violent extremism and child pornography, including a provision that would include fines for platforms that did not remove illegal content within an hour of being alerted to it.

Several countries — France, Israel, Italy, and Canada among them — have sent queries to the German government about the impact of the new hate speech law.

And Germany’s influence is evident in Europe’s new privacy regulation, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R.. The rules give people control over how their information is collected and used.

Inspired in part by German data protection laws written in the 1980s, the regulation has been shaped by a number of prominent Germans. Ms. Jourova’s chief of staff, Renate Nikolay, is German, as is her predecessor’s chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, now the European Commission’s secretary general. The lawmaker in charge of the regulation in the European Parliament is German, too.

“We have built on the German tradition of data protection as a constitutional right and created the most modern piece of regulation of the digital economy,” Ms. Nikolay said.

“To succeed in the long-term companies needs the trust of customers,” she said. “At the latest since Cambridge Analytica it has become clear that data protection is not just some nutty European idea, but a matter of competitiveness.”

On March 26, Ms. Jourova wrote a letter — by post, not email — to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

“Is there a need for stricter rules for platforms like those that exist for traditional media?” she asked.

“Is the data of Europeans affected by the current scandal?” she added, referring to the Cambridge Analytica episode. And, if so, “How do you plan to inform the user about this?”

She demanded a reply within two weeks, and she got one. Some 2.7 million Europeans were affected, Ms. Sandberg wrote.

But she never answered Ms. Jourova’s question on regulation.

“There is now a sense of urgency and the conviction that we are dealing with something very dangerous that may threaten the development of free democracies,” said Ms. Jourova, who is also trying to find ways to clamp down on fake news and disinformation campaigns.

“We want the tech giants to respect and follow our legislation,” she added. “We want them to show social responsibility both on data protection and on hate speech.”

So do many Facebook employees, Mr. Allan, the company executive, said.

“We employ very thoughtful and principled people,” he said. “They work here because they want to make the world a better place, so when an assumption is made that the product they work on is harming people it is impactful.”

“People have felt this criticism very deeply,” he said.

A Visual Onslaught

Nils works eight-hour shifts. On busy days, 1,500 user reports are in his queue. Other days, there are only 300. Some of his colleagues have nightmares about what they see.

Every so often someone breaks down. A mother recently left her desk in tears after watching a video of a child being sexually abused. A young man felt physically sick after seeing a video of a dog being tortured. The agents watch teenagers self-mutilating and girls recounting rape.

They have weekly group sessions with a psychologist and the trauma specialists on standby. In more serious cases, the center teams up with clinics in Berlin.

In the office, which is adorned with Facebook logos, fresh fruit is at the agents’ disposal in a small room where subdued colors and decorative moss growing on the walls are meant to calm fraying nerves.

To decompress, the agents sometimes report each other’s posts, not because they are controversial, but “just for a laugh,” said another agent, the son of a Lebanese refugee and an Arabic-speaker who has had to deal with content related to terrorism generally and the Islamic State specifically. By now, he said, images of “weird skin diseases” affected him more than those of a beheading. Nils finds sports injuries like breaking bones particularly disturbing.

There is a camaraderie in the office and a real sense of mission: Nils said the agents were proud to “help clean up the hate.”

The definition of hate is constantly evolving.

The agents, who initially take a three-week training course, get frequent refreshers. Their guidelines are revised to reflect hate speech culture. Events change the meaning of words. New hashtags and online trends must be put in context.

“Slurs can become socialized,” Mr. Allan of Facebook explained.

“Refugee” became a group protected from the broad hate speech rules only in 2015. “Nafri” was a term used by the German police that year to describe North Africans who sexually harassed hundreds of women, attacking and, in some cases, raping them. Since then, Nafri has become a popular insult among the far-right.

Nils and his colleagues must determine whether hateful content is singling out an ethnic group or individuals.

That was the challenge with a message on Twitter that was later posted to Facebook as a screenshot by Beatrix von Storch, deputy floor leader of the far-right party, AfD.

“What the hell is wrong with this country?” Ms. von Storch wrote on Dec. 31. “Why is an official police account tweeting in Arabic?”

“Do you think that will appease the barbaric murdering Muslim group-raping gangs of men?” she continued.

A user reported the post as a violation of German law, and it landed in Nils’s queue. He initially decided to ignore the request because he felt Ms. von Storch was directing her insults at the men who had sexually assaulted women two years earlier.

Separately, a user reported the post as a violation of community standards. Another agent leaned toward deleting it, taking it as directed at Muslims in general.

They conferred with their “subject matter expert,” who escalated it to a team in Dublin.

For 24 hours, the post kept Facebook lawyers from Silicon Valley to Hamburg busy. The Dublin team decided that the post did not violate community standards but sent it on for legal assessment by outside lawyers hired by Facebook in Germany.

Within hours of news that the German police were opening a criminal investigation into Ms. von Storch over her comments, Facebook restricted access to the post. The user who reported the content was notified that it had been blocked for a violation of section 130 of the German criminal code, incitement to hatred. Ms. von Storch was also notified too.

In the first few days of the year, it looked like the platforms were erring on the side of censorship. On Jan. 2, a day after Ms. von Storch’s post was deleted, the satirical magazine Titanic quipped that she would be its new guest tweeter. Two of the magazine’s subsequent Twitter posts mocking her were deleted. When Titanic published them again, its account was temporarily suspended.

Since then, things have calmed down. And even Mr. Allan conceded: “The law has not materially changed the amount of content that is deleted.”

via Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate – The New York Times

ADL tallies up roughly 4 million anti-Semitic tweets in 2017

It would be nice to have comparative data with respect to different religions just as we do for police-reported hate crimes. :

At least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared from roughly 3 million Twitter accounts last year, according to an Anti-Defamation League report released Monday. Most of those accounts are believed to be operated by real people rather than automated software known as bots, the organization, an international NGO that works against anti-Semitism and bigotry, said.

The anti-Semitic accounts constitute less than 1% of the roughly 336 million active accounts,

“This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of anti-Semitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement.

The report comes amid growing concern about harassment on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as their roles in spreading fake news. Both companies are trying to curb hatred on their platforms while preserving principles of free speech and expression. Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned to Washington to testify in front of Congress, in part out of concern over how the social network was used to spread propaganda during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has publicly made harassment on the social network a priority, even soliciting ideas for combatting the problem from the public. In March, Dorsey held a livestream to discuss how to deal with the issue. The company has made changes, such as prohibiting offensive account names or better enforcing its terms of service.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ADL report, evaluated tweets on subjects ranging from Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish slurs to positive references to anti-Semitic figures, books and podcasts. The ADL also tallied the use of coded words and symbols, such as the triple parenthesis, which is put around names to signal someone is Jewish.

The study used a dataset of roughly 55,000 tweets, which were screened by a team of researchers for indications of anti-Semitism. Since this is the first report if its kind from the group, there aren’t numbers to compare to data. Though, the ADL did release a report on the targeting of journalists during the 2016 election which also included Twitter data.

The ADL says that artificial intelligence and algorithms will eventually be effective at identifying hate online, but human input is needed to train such systems. For example, screeners can teach machines when anti-Semitic language might have been used to express opposition to such ideas or in an ironic manner.

Such issues aren’t simply hypothetical. The ADL pointed to the huge volume of tweets about anti-Semitism that were posted during the week of the Charlottesville, Virginia riots last summer. Though Twitter saw the highest volume of tweets about anti-Semitism for the year, only a small percentage were actually anti-Semitic.

The report noted the ADL works with Twitter on the issues of anti-Semitism and bigotry online. Greenblatt said the organization is “pleased that Twitter has already taken significant steps to respond to this challenge.”

Source: ADL tallies up roughly 4 million anti-Semitic tweets in 2017

‘Weaponization’ of free speech prompts talk of a new hate law

One to watch:

The climate for hate speech regulation in Canada appears to be shifting.

Traditional free speech advocates are reconsidering the status quo they helped create, in which hate speech is only a Criminal Code charge that requires political approval, and so is rarely prosecuted. There is even talk of resurrecting the defunct and much maligned ban on internet hate speech, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The latest example was a lecture this week by Omar Mouallem, an Edmonton journalist and board member of free expression group PEN Canada, in which he argued online racists have “weaponized” free speech against Muslims, and Canada should consider a new anti-hate law to stop them.

Mouallem told a University of Alberta audience that public discourse is “fatally flawed,” and overrun with hate propagandists who traffic in lies and provocations in order to pose as censorship victims.

The far right has “co-opted” the issue of free speech, and their activism is not a principled defence of a Charter value, but “a sly political strategy to divide opponents on the left, humiliate them and cast them as hypocrites and unconstitutional, to clear a way for unconstitutional ideas,” Mouallem said in an advance email interview.

The traditional liberal response of public censure and rebuttal is no longer effective because it just “devolves into a pissing match that goes nowhere and only makes people double down on their opinions,” he said. “Given that Facebook groups and social media are the meeting point for hate groups to organize, and that online hate speech has a great ability to spread wider and faster, I think special regulation is worth considering.”

It is striking to hear that from a board member of PEN Canada, which is devoted to fighting censorship and defending freedom of expression, and was instrumental in the legislative repeal of Section 13, a law in the Canadian Human Rights Act that banned repeated messages, by phone or internet, that were “likely to expose” protected groups to hatred or contempt.

The lecture follows news that the federal Liberal government is openly mulling bringing back Section 13, which was repealed by Parliament in 2014, but later found by courts to be constitutionally valid. It allowed for legal orders banning offenders from engaging in further hate speech, on pain of criminal contempt charges, and provided for fines of $10,000.

It also follows the backtracking of another press freedom group, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, which launched a petition for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “disinvite” U.S. President Donald Trump from a G7 Summit on the grounds that his administration’s attacks on press freedom have harmed American democracy. That petition was deleted soon after it was announced, amid criticism that it hypocritically also violated the principles of free expression.

Even libraries have illustrated the shift. A memorial held in a Toronto library last year for Barbara Kulaszka, a prominent lawyer for Canadian hate propagandists, led the Toronto Public Library to change its room-booking policy, allowing officials to refuse bookings that are “likely to promote, or would have the effect of promoting, discrimination, contempt or hatred of any group.”

Tasleem Thawar, executive director of PEN Canada, said she encourages diverse perspectives on the board. There has been no change to the group’s official position “that an educated, thoughtful, and vibrantly expressive citizenry is the best defence against the spread of hateful ideologies,” she said.

“If the federal government were to propose a new law (against hate speech), we would certainly comment on the specifics and its possible effects,” she said. “However, PEN is also committed to dispelling hatreds, as stated in the PEN International Charter, including on the basis of identity markers like class, race, gender, and nationality. And it is true that hateful, marginalizing and even demonizing speech can chill the freedom of expression of the groups who are being subjected to such public bigotry.”

All this might be evidence that the culture war over Canada’s uniquely balanced approach to hate speech is set to flare up again. Old arguments are being repurposed to fit modern media. Laws that were written in the age of telephone hotlines and printed newspapers are being reconsidered in the context of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

As ever, religion — especially Islam — is at the core of the debate, according to Richard Moon, the University of Windsor law professor who authored an influential 2008 report for the Canadian Human Rights Commission that urged it to stop regulating online hate via Section 13.

In his forthcoming book Putting Faith in Hate: When Religion is the Source or Target of Hate Speech, Moon describes the traditional distinction between speech that attacks a belief, which is typically protected by law, and speech that attacks a group, which can rise to the level of banned hate speech. He argues that our understanding of religion complicates this distinction, because religion is both a personal commitment and a cultural identity. Hate speech, then, often works by falsely attributing an objectionable belief to every member of a cultural group.

“Most contemporary anti-Muslim speech takes this form, presenting Islam as a regressive and violent belief system that is incompatible with liberal democratic values. The implication is that those who identify as Muslims – those who hold such beliefs – are dangerous and should be treated accordingly. Beliefs that may be held by a fringe element in the tradition are falsely attributed to all Muslims,” Moon writes.

Mouallem, who does not identify as Muslim, is a former rapper, freelance writer, and co-author of a book on the Fort McMurray wildfire. He said he does not advocate the return of Section 13 exactly as it was. It often worked, he said, but it is “too tainted.”

Section 13 was a “messy, if not farcical process,” he said, made more so by the “manipulation” of Richard Warman, the lawyer and former Canadian Human Rights Commission staffer who effectively monopolized the law, filing nearly every case and eventually winning them all, sometimes after posing online as a neo-Nazi to gather evidence. It was also “misused,” he said, by Canadian Muslim leaders on the “wishy-washy” case of alleged anti-Islam hate speech in Maclean’s magazine.

But Canada should have some kind of “online clause” that addresses both the “uniqueness of online content” and this current historical moment in which there is “widespread vilification” of Muslims and “rapid mobilization of extremist groups.”

Now there are “flagrant” examples that would be caught by such a law, he said, such as Ezra Levant’s use of the term “rapefugees.”

“Allowing hate speech to remain in the public sphere actually signals that it’s socially acceptable, which gives licence to perpetuate it, and eventually can make it mainstream,” Mouallem said.

The expression that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” meaning hate speech is best countered by more and better speech is “ineffective when you’re dealing with majority tyranny and certain discrimination is widely accepted. This is the unique moment of hate speech in Canada and much of the ‘West’ right now,” he said. “Society has made an exception for Islam.”

Source: ‘Weaponization’ of free speech prompts talk of a new hate law

Ottawa library cancels planned screening of controversial ‘Killing Europe’ doc

Viewing the trailer, appears to be the right call as it crosses the border into hate speech (Mark Steyn on steroids):

The Ottawa Public Library has cancelled this weekend’s screening of a controversial documentary, Killing Europe, after complaints the film was thinly disguised hate speech against Muslims and immigrants.

“I am letting you know that I have been working with the city solicitor about concerns brought forward by the Ottawa district labour council, unions, residents, board members and friends,” Coun. Tim Tierney, who is chairman of the library’s board of directors, said in an email. “I had asked the CEO to review and address the concerns expressed.”

“I can now report that the rental of the room will not take place.”

The documentary was to have been screened Saturday afternoon at the library’s main branch on Metcalfe Street. The screening was to have been hosted by the group ACT! for Canada, a group dedicated “to speaking out about the clear and present dangers emerging from those who do not embrace Canada’s values …”

Killing Europe, by Danish ex-patriate Michael Hansen, purports to warn of the dangers of the “Islamification” of Europe.

But even a “30-second Google search” by the library would have revealed it to be hate speech, says human rights lawyer Richard Warman, who was one of the people to complain to the library about the screening.

Screening the film is “in clear violation of the library’s own rental policy prohibiting the use of space for discriminatory purposes,” Warman wrote in an email to the library and its board members, Mayor Jim Watson, and others.

“When I looked at the three-minute trailer, it was clear it was going to be an all-out assault on immigrants and the Muslim community,” Warman said Friday.

“The messages contained even in just the trailer is that ‘immigrants are coming to swamp and devastate Europe and that Muslims are engaged in perpetual massacres of the white populations.’ Obviously, it set off alarms.”

Warman received confirmation the screening had been cancelled in an email Friday morning from library deputy CEO Monique Désormeaux.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, another library board member, said Friday she “wholeheartedly” supported the library’s decision to cancel the screening and promised better discussion in the future about what the library chooses to allow.

But where to draw the line between suppressing free speech and stifling hate speech?

Warman said the screening clearly violated the library’s obligations, stated on its website, to not provide public space for individuals or groups that “are likely to promote discrimination, contempt or hatred to any person on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, sexual preference, or disability, gratuitous sex and violence or denigration of the human condition.”

“As a human rights lawyer, I’m firmly in the camp of defending freedom of expression under Section 2B of the Charter,” Warman said. “The library board is absolutely right to defend freedom of expression, while at the same time complying with their parallel obligation under Ontario human rights law not to discriminate against people on the basis of race and religion.”

In the case of Killing Europe and ACT! for Canada’s own newsletter, which Warman said includes claims of gang rapes and “grotesque caricatures of pakis, blacks and illegals,” there is “no grey area.”

“This is hate propaganda that is clearly directed toward recent immigrants and members of the Muslim community,” he said.

“The main thing is that we ensure public venues aren’t used as amplifiers of the message of hate-mongers … Public, taxpayer-funded facilities cannot be used to engage in hate propaganda. The library board has the obligation, when we know that these groups will attempt to misuse public facilities, that they engage in a sort of rudimentary 30-second Google check: ‘Who are you again? And what’s the movie you want to show?’ The 30-second Google check would have come up with the answers and set off alarm bells.”

ACT! for Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

via Ottawa library cancels planned screening of controversial ‘Killing Europe’ doc | Ottawa Citizen

What Does Facebook Consider Hate Speech? Take Our Quiz – The New York Times

Gives a good sense of the criteria Facebook uses,  allowing more than what I would consider hate speech.

Take the quiz at their website for the contrast between Facebook, your responses as well as NYT readers (spoiler alert: Facebook classified half of these as hate speech, I classified 5 of the 6):

Have you ever seen a post on Facebook that you were surprised wasn’t removed as hate speech? Have you flagged a message as offensive or abusive but the social media site deemed it perfectly legitimate?

Users on social media sites often express confusion about why offensive posts are not deleted. Paige Lavender, an editor at HuffPost, recently described her experience learning that a vulgar and threatening message she received on Facebook did not violate the platform’s standards.

Here are a selection of statements based on examples from a Facebook training document and real-world comments found on social media. Most readers will find them offensive. But can you tell which ones would run afoul of Facebook’s rules on hate speech?

Hate speech is one of several types of content that Facebook reviews, in addition to threats and harassment. Facebook defines hate speech as:

  1. An attack, such as a degrading generalization or slur.
  2. Targeting a “protected category” of people, including one based on sex, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.

Facebook’s hate speech guidelines were published in June by ProPublica, an investigative news organization, which is gathering users’ experiences about how the social network handles hate speech.

Danielle Citron, an information privacy expert and professor of law at the University of Maryland, helped The New York Times analyze six deeply insulting statements and determine whether they would be considered hate speech under Facebook’s rules.

  1. “Why do Indians always smell like curry?! They stink!”
  2. “Poor black people should still sit at the back of the bus.”
  3. “White men are assholes.”
  4. “Keep ‘trans’ men out of girls bathrooms!”
  5. “Female sports reporters need to be hit in the head with hockey pucks.”
  6. “I’ll never trust a Muslim immigrant… they’re all thieves and robbers.”

Did any of these answers surprise you? You’re probably not alone.

Ms. Citron said that even thoughtful and robust definitions of hate speech can yield counterintuitive results when enforced without cultural and historic context.

“When you’re trying to get as rulish as possible, you can lose the point of it,” she said. “The spirit behind those rules can get lost.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said that the company expects its thousands of content reviewers to take context into account when making decisions, and that it constantly evolves its policies to keep up with changing cultural nuances.

In response to questions for this piece, Facebook said it had changed its policy to include age as a protected category. While Facebook’s original training document states that content targeting “black children” would not violate its hate speech policy, the company’s spokeswoman said that such attacks would no longer be acceptable.