A community newspaper in Texas brought new attention to Facebook’s policies when the social media platform removed a post containing a passage from the Declaration of Independence, which it labled hate speech.
As The Hill reported, Facebook initially determined the post violated its community standards but later restored the status update and issued an apology.
The Liberty County Vindicator published an article Monday explaining that its editors had posted the historical document in segments on its Facebook page as a way to encourage readers to consider its meaning ahead of Independence Day.
In total, the paper posted a 12-part series of status updates that contained the entire text of the Declaration of Independence.
It was the 10th installment — specifically paragraphs 27 to 31 of the document — that was initially found to be in violation of Facebook standards.
“While The Vindicator cannot be certain exactly what triggered Facebook’s filtering program, the editor suspects it was most likely the phrase ‘Indian savages,'” the article stated.
In context, the suspected problematic paragraph reads: “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.”
Casey Stinnett, the paper’s managing editor, speculated that the language was not politically correct enough for today’s social media standards.
“Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as ‘Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development’ that would have been better,” the editor wrote. “Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans.”
Stinnett went on to acknowledge that “there is a good deal in that passage that could be thought hateful.”
The paper updated the article to reflect an apology from Facebook and the company’s decision to restore the original post.
“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards,” Facebook wrote. “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 paper thanked “the good folks at Facebook” for making things right.
“The Vindicator extends its thanks to Facebook,” the update read. “We never doubted Facebook would fix it, but neither did we doubt the usefulness of our fussing about it a little.”
Before the apology, Stinnett noted that the paper was frustrated with Facebook’s decision but acknowledged the corporation had a legal right to censor the content.
“This is frustrating, but your editor is a historian, and to enjoy the study of history a person must love irony,” the article concluded. “It is a very great irony that the words of Thomas Jefferson should now be censored in America.”
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