WASHINGTON, DC – Racism is alive and well on Facebook, despite the social network’s policy banning hate speech.
A new study from Baylor University shows how anti-Obama and just plain racist groups use Facebook to spread their messages. And we’re not talking about politics, but Ku Klux Klan-style hate speech using old stereotypes updated with do-rags and golden grills.
“Some people have declared the present a “post-racial” era in that U.S. citizens elected a black president, maintaining that policies to address racism are no longer necessary,” Mia Moody, Ph.D., who led the Baylor study, said in a statement. “But depictions of minorities in new media show otherwise.”
More than 20 Facebook groups and “pages” were analyzed, using the keywords, “hate,” “Barack Obama,” and “Michelle Obama” to identify them.
Although historical stereotypes that portrayed blacks as animals, evil or shiftless have all but disappeared from mainstream television shows and movies, fans of Facebook hate groups have revived them and use doctored photos of the President as a chimp or sporting a bandana and a mouth full of gold teeth, according to the study.
“The growth of Facebook groups from a fringe activity to a significant communication source illustrates the recent evolution in the spread of hate speech,” Moody said. Study findings indicate Facebook hate groups/pages differ from the hate groups of old. Today’s groups don’t have to be a part of a traditional faction such as the Ku Klux Klan — Anyone can create a Facebook group or page anywhere, and then recruit members from all over the world, the study said.
Moody found that even groups that claimed to be politically motivated used racist rhetoric, contained racist posts and comments. The page for the group, “No! I don’t hate blacks! I just think Barack Obama is a terrible president,” was peppered with racial slurs, such as “Obama needs to step down and go back to Africa with the rest of the coons!! He’s nothing but a jigaboo and spear chucker!! (sic).” This site was later removed from Facebook.
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Some hate groups have avoided Facebook policy-keepers by using slur-free titles for their groups and “official” pages, along with photos without captions — neither of these examples would turn up in a Facebook keyword search. “Because slurs are not in the official title, Facebook is not as quick to shut them down,” she said.
Many groups emphasized the Obamas’ dietary habits, the report said. One photo featured Mr. Obama holding a can of Welch’s grape soda and wearing heavy gold jewelry and a baseball cap — obviously Photoshopped into the photo. The photo’s caption asked, “Where all the white wimmin at (sic)?”
Facebook prohibits hate speech that “attacks people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease.” However, it allows “clear attempts at humor or satire that might otherwise be considered a possible threat or attack. This includes content that many people may find to be in bad taste (e.g. jokes, stand-up comedy, popular song lyrics, etc.).” Facebook did not respond to our request for comment, leaving us to wonder, “Are racial slurs ever funny?”