Facebook has been grappling with how to police hate speech on the social network and the tech firm admits it doesn’t always get it right.
Ijeoma Oluo, a black activist and writer in Seattle, tweeted this week that Facebook apologized to her after the tech firm suspended her account for several days. Oluo was posting screenshots of racist comments and violent threats she received in response to a joke she made on Twitter.
The apology came after Oluo wrote a blog post on Medium titled “Facebook’s Complicity in the Silencing of Black Women.”
We discussed the specific issues around reporting & support I faced & they say they are committed to making changes. I hope that's true.
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) August 3, 2017
While on a road trip with her kids, Oluo decided to stop by Cracker Barrel, which paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits that accused the restaurant chain of discriminating against black customers and employees.
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Feeling nervous, Oluo wrote in the blog post that she decided to make a joke on Twitter.
“At Cracker Barrel 4 the 1st time. Looking at the sea of white folk in cowboy hats & wondering ‘will they let my black ass walk out of here?’, ” she tweeted.
Users then accused Oluo of racism and the activist started receiving death threats and racial slurs on social media. While Twitter responded to her reports of abuse, Oluo said Facebook wasn’t helpful and took down her account after she posted screenshots of the hurtful comments.
“This isn’t okay. I shouldn’t have to leave facebook in order to escape racist hate. I shouldn’t have to be silent in the face of racist hate in order to be able to stay on the platform,” she wrote.
Minorities and activists, including in the Bay Area, have criticized the social media giant before for censoring them when they call out racism.
And this is not the first time Facebook, which has 2 billion users, has acknowledged it made an error.
Facebook mistakenly pulled down a post by Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King last year after he uploaded screenshot of a racist message he received.
“Our mistakes have caused a great deal of concern in a number of communities, including among groups who feel we act — or fail to act — out of bias,” wrote Richard Allen, Facebook’s vice president for public policy EMEA in a post about how the tech firm handles hate speech. “We are deeply committed to addressing and confronting bias anywhere it may exist. At the same time, we work to fix our mistakes quickly when they happen.”
Photo Credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images