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Declaration of Independence section flagged as 'hate speech' by Facebook, removed from site

A newspaper's post on a section of the Declaration of Independence was flagged as "hate speech" by Facebook and removed from the site. But Facebook restored the post it had flagged and offered an apology. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Oh, the irony.

A small Texas newspaper called the Vindicator had an idea for highlighting the Declaration of Independence. The paper decided that it would challenge its readers on Facebook to digest the Declaration in small parts every day from June 24 to July 4.

The first nine parts were posted as scheduled, the Vindicator said, but then came part 10 — which consisted of paragraphs 27 through 31 of the ironic document.

That section didn't make it on Facebook, the paper said — but the social media giant did offer the Vindicator a note about what happened.

Seems that section of the Declaration “goes against our standards on hate speech,” according to the notice, the Vindicator reported.

Facebook then asked the paper to "review the contents of its page and remove anything that does not comply with Facebook’s policies."

What does the offensive section say?

Here's the section of the Declaration that Facebook flagged, the Vindicator said:

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The newspaper — which prints once a week but posts news every day online — said it wasn't absolutely certain what qualified as "hate speech" but was pretty sure it was the term "Indian Savages."

More from the Vindicator:

The removal of the post was an automated action. If any human being working at Facebook were to review it, no doubt the post would be allowed, and the editor has searched for a means of contacting Facebook for an explanation or a opportunity to appeal the post’s removal, but it does not appear the folks at Facebook want anyone contacting them. Or, at least, they do not make it easy. The Vindicator has sent Facebook a feedback message. That being the only way found so far to contact the company.

The paper noted that Facebook removing the post presented another issue: whether or not to post the final two sections of the Declaration, since the Vindicator stood to lose its Facebook page should the powers that be in Silicon Valley deem anything else offensive.

"This is frustrating, but your editor is a historian, and to enjoy the study of history a person must love irony," the paper concluded. "It is a very great irony that the words of Thomas Jefferson should now be censored in America."

Oh, and top it off? The Vindicator is located in a town called — of all names — Liberty.

All's well that ends well...

The paper noted that on Tuesday evening, Facebook restored the post it had flagged for hate speech and offered an apology: “It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”

The Vindicator on Thursday updated its situation, noting — yes, on Facebook — that its publisher was being "bombarded with emailed complaints from folks elsewhere in the world wanting to read our version of the story but unable to access The Vindicator’s website because of the recently implemented GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that denies access to our site from many European countries."

The paper added that it had "no idea that noncompliance with the GDPR would ever be a problem for our little publication."

"Strangely, our story seems to have been picked up abroad more than here in the U.S.," the post concluded. "When we were in the middle of it, before Facebook restored the post, we reached out to a number of the big newspapers in Texas, but got no response. Only the Texas Observer replied."

(H/T: Reason)

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