Facebook removed a group this week, citing that the group was promoting hateful attitudes, according to The New York Times. 20-year-old Bolivian Facebook user Hony Pierola created a Spanish-language group asking others to help raise money so a gunman could be hired to “liquidate” Bolivia’s leftist president Evo Morales. It was only until the group, called “Global collection to hire a sharpshooter to liquidate Evo Morales,” gained over 8,000 members and racked up nearly 500 hateful postings that the group gained the attention of the AP, which reported the group to Facebook.
Less than 90 minutes later the group, which bore a description reading “We need to get the money to inspire someone to do it,” was removed.
The anti-Morales group, which had been around since at least August of last year, spoke against the political initiatives and objectives of the country’s first Indian president, as he’s pushing a socialist agenda onto Bolivia’s landscape. The New York Times article goes on to mention the voter-approved new constitution for Bolivia, seeking to empower the country’s notably suppressed Indian majority.
Aside from the group message and description, which Pierola says was created more so in humor than for serious intentions, it was the thousands of users and hundreds of hateful group postings that helped raise the alarm against Pierola’s group. This all violates Facebook’s Terms of Service. Yes, there’s free speech and all, but the promotion of hateful groups isn’t something that’s taken lightly on Facebook’s social network.
There have actually been a number of groups formed against public figures raising in popularity in the past few months. Even the war in Gaza has resulted in at least one incident of user content being removed from Facebook for speaking about war-related events, as they were likely offensive to other users and subsequently reported.
But this particular situation yet again begs the questions: where does Facebook draw the line? What’s considered hateful and what’s considered free speech? When do people take jokes too seriously and when are people claiming a practical joke attitude to escape hate crime accusations? What would have happened if the AP hadn’t reported Pierola’s anti-Morales group?