Everyone in Washington seems to think social media giant Facebook is on the hook for protecting people from fake news. I’ve written about how that is a really bad idea before. You can’t outsource your critical thinking to a computer algorithm cobbled together by people who probably couldn’t fairly identify fake news themselves. An incident surrounding Facebook posts about Independence Day only strengthens my resolve on that issue.
The programming wizards at Facebook wrote an algorithm that identified the Declaration of Independence as hate speech during the week of Independence Day.
The Liberty County Vindicator had been sharing excerpts from America’s founding document to its Facebook page in an attempt to encourage historical literacy among its readers.
Part 10 did not appear, with the paper receiving a notice from Facebook saying the post went against its standards on hate speech.
Editor Casey Stinnett wrote afterwards of the offending paragraph: “Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as ‘Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development’ that would have been better.
“Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans.”
The newspaper later confirmed that Facebook had had a change of heart and apologised.
“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our community standards,” the company told the Vindicator.
“We want to apologise and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”
At least Facebook had the good sense to reverse the automated decision. In the current climate where Thanksgiving is now always accompanied by left wing dissertations about the evils of white Europeans, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see them double down and side with the algorithm.
The offending passage of the Declaration reads as follows:
“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.”
While The Vindicator cannot be certain exactly what triggered Facebook’s filtering program, the editor suspects it was most likely the phrase “Indian Savages.”
This is a glaring example of how political correctness is antithetical to freedom. It also illustrates why automating censorship in the fool’s errand of protecting everyone from ever being offended will only result in a dumber population.