Facebook’s double standard

January 17, 2016 • 10:45 am

My personal Facebook (FB) site has been blocked twice, both times because I’m a moderator on another FB site, the Global Secular Humanist Movement (GSHM; do “like” it if you want), which was also blocked at the same time. And both times the blocking followed complaints that we “violated community standards”, almost certainly because some of the posts on the GSHM site criticized Islam.

Yet, as I’ve posted before, there are many anti-Israeli sites that persist on Facebook—indeed, sites that are so viciously anti-Israeli that their content verges on—if not constitutes—anti-Semitism. I’ve posted on this before, with some examples, and I’ll give just one here, from the still-extant FB site Death to America & Israel:


Note the German word “Juden” (“Jews”). This is exactly the kind of cartoon that appeared in Nazi propaganda, and is still purveyed by state media throughout the Middle East.

I mean, seriously: what does this have to do with Israel? Rather, it’s anti-Semitism of the classic type, portraying Jews as venal, hook-nosed demons running every powerful institution and lucrative industry. These sites don’t get taken down, and I wonder why. Is it that the “offended” (Jews, most likely, but really it should be everyone) don’t complain, or because their complaints aren’t taken seriously in contrast to those by offended people who object to criticism of Islam?

To parse this out, the Israel Law Center simultaneously created two FB sites in December: “Stop Palestinians” and “Stop Israelis”. And they put up equally inciting and divisive posts on both sites, ratcheting up the hatred with successive posts.

They then reported both sites to Facebook. What happened? One site was closed for “violating community standards,” and the other wasn’t, as FB decided it was not violating community standards.

Can you guess which one was blocked? That’s a no-brainer, and I bet you’d put up a big sum of money on your choice. And you’d be right. Here’s a video showing what was done and some of the posts. (The anti-Israel/Jewish site is still open.)

Now some may object that this experiment was done by a Jewish group, and you can go ahead and object on that basis, but I’d prefer that you discuss the content and actions, not the group that conducted the experiment. That’s simply irrelevant.

It’s been clear for some time that Facebook has a double standard: they crack down on bias or criticism of Islam or Palestine, but don’t do so on criticism of Israel or Jews.  That cannot stand. They should either block both types of sites, or let them both stand.

As a free-speech advocate, I prefer that they’d keep both types of sites open so long as they don’t promote immediate violence and murder, which is illegal. (I’d put recruitment for ISIS in the illegal class.) But it’s sheer bias, if not bigotry, for Facebook to use this double standard. They really should look closer at the groups they use to adjudicate “community standards.”

h/t: netmyst

61 thoughts on “Facebook’s double standard

    1. I would say Zuckerberg is just reflecting the positions of the global elite. Israel is demonized in my conclusions because they reflect the success of an ethnic-nationalist state when all ‘right-thinking’ people know that ‘free trade’ internationalism is the only possible future. Obviously we will eventually be a globalised planet, but we are far from having the stability and mechanisms to move beyond the nation state. Ironically many former internationalist socialists are now global capitalists if you really analyze their views (they angrily deny this, but their positions on labor mobility make it quite clear). I’m conflicted on which is the correct approach from an economic standpoint, but it is clear internationalism is bolstered in either case by destabilizing nation states. Since Muslims seem to find themselves in conflict with an array of cultures and religions, they are a useful tool of the global elite in this regard.

  1. I’ve seen some nasty anti-atheist stuff on FB too and it certainly doesn’t get banned.

    I too like such sites to remain because they provide evidence to who these people really are.

    1. I agree. In the interests of free speech (and identifying the a-hole bigots) it should all be able to remain unless it calls for violence.

      There definitely appears to be a double standard here, and it’s amazing how often it seems to be Jews and atheists who are the victims of that double standard.

      People worry about what might happen when Islam is criticized because there is a percentage of Muslims that react with deadly violence. It’s a problem with a significant number of followers of that religion. Just look at how often and consistently the International Islamic Council has tried to get an international blasphemy law, related only to Islam, especially via the United Nations. All ideas, including religious ideas, must be open to being questiined. The privileging of religious ideas over others is wrong.

      All religions should remember that if it wasn’t for previous ideas being questioned, their own religion would never have come to be.

      1. Trouble is that to decide whether something is ‘calling for violence’ is a tricky matter and the definition can and does get very broad. There is a lot of discussion re SCOTUS regarding this.

        For instance does a chair hanging from a tree, which I recently saw in the South, count as speech and indeed speech ‘calling for violence’? I assure you, that in the context and with the right understanding it does. I assure you of that.

        1. Personally, I would consider that threatening at the very least and, given the history of the region, a call to violence. Whether it would meet a legal definition I don’t know, but I would hope it would.

          1. Not quite it is a direct reference to Obama, hanging him specifically now. The trope is due partly I think to Clint Eastwood’s bizaree speech at a GOP Conference.

          2. I’m not aware of that specificity. Perhaps those doing it mean one thing, and those affected by it recognize the deeper historical meaning. Keep in mind the deaths of unarmed Black individuals, including children, by police and/or in police custody, making the news in only the latter half of Obama’s presidency. These are like government-sanctioned lynchings. I’m not aware of a single officer being found guilty of murder and spending time in the penitentiary for it, no matter how obvious his or her brutal actions, no matter how much supportive video evidence there is.

  2. It’s been clear for some time that Facebook has a double standard…

    I completely agree that such a double standard is ridiculous and harmful, but don’t the Facebook “community standards” merely reflect the actual community standards of our culture? There never has been a time in my lifetime when Jews in the U.S. were not subject to a harmful double standard. I, for one, wouldn’t hesitate to call this anti-Semitism.

    1. As one Jew who’s been personally targeted many times and in various ways, I have to agree with that. It can be hard to parse the antisemitism from the anti-feminism (i.e., misogyny) in my case, but there were certainly enough instances that were clear cut, from early childhood to current adulthood, spanning nearly 60 years.

  3. Follow the money. Zuckerberg is no fool (or hires non-fools – effectively the same thing) so one can safely assume that he has had the research done, and finds that he makes more money by adopting this double standard.
    Facebook is a for-profit operation, of which the product is the people who use it. So “follow the money” is always a justifiable tactic.

    1. Would’ve been interesting if “Death to America & Israel” had included among the “Who’s Really in Control?” squares one labeled “Facebook” with a similarly anti-Semitic depiction.

        1. Well, there you go. (Sometimes I can’t bring myself to focus on the Der Stürmer-style details of this kind of crap.)

  4. Who can figure out Zuckerberg. He got very rich early in life and he is still young. I find it hard to see how holding this double standard is a money thing. The guy is buried in money. He, and or, his company is bending over backwards for the Muslims. That is what many of our screwed up liberal friends are doing these days.

    1. I hope it’s something more like being afraid of riling up militant Muslims. But I suppose it may simply be regressive left anti-Israel bias. But can’t they at least separate Jews the people from Israel the country?

  5. Not only Facebook; I’ve reported a virulently anti-Semitic post on Amazon several times, but it’s never been removed.

    1. I’ve observed that, widely, slurs against jews are tolerated that would not be if directed against other minorities. I think it is because jews are viewed as successful and “privileged” so punching up is okay but punching down is not.

      1. Perhaps that applies to the trolls of low self-worth, but they aren’t the only ones punching. Incidently, the amount of YouTube videos with glaringly antisemitic titles identifying their intent is too many for one person to flag. I doubt any of them are being taken down when flagged, either.

  6. “What happened? One site was closed for “violating community standards,” and the other wasn’t, as FB decided it was not violating community standards.”

    Were both sites private, or public? I ask because I suspect there are far more people looking for, and reporting “anti-Islam” sites than “anti-Judaism” sites. Does the Israel Law Center know that they were the only ones who reported both sites? Again my point is I suspect volume of complaints is a significant criteria use by Facebook.

    1. A quick googling gives 1,600,000,000 Muslims in the world vs. at best 14,000,000 Jews. That’s over 100 to 1, in terms of numbers available to create vs monitor and flag such sites. That’s not a fair fight. Add world wide growth in antisemitism finally reaching newsworthy level, now, and it’s a monumental effort required for Jews to defend themselves. I have to wonder how many would have to give up their research and other worthy careers to focus solely on this and propaganda techniques, and how much the world would lose in tangible scientific and technical progress, were that done.

      It just reminds me of the old fairy tale about the goose that laid the golden egg and the theme song from the movie “Billy Jack.”

      1. 14 million?

        Wow. What a stunningly small number. There are more Southern Baptists (think on that an weep). That’s about the same size as the Apostolic Church, whom I’ve never heard of before googling Christian denominations by number of members. Even Ben Carson’s little sect of Seventh Day Adventists outnumber that.

        1. Many are equally surprised when presented with a map of the entire Middle East, including north Africa and extending through Iraq. They can hardly find Israel, it’s so small, yet the media and the pro-Palestinian propaganda make it seem the size of Texas, while religionists make “the three Abrahamic religions” sound like there are equal numbers of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

          1. I like to point out to people that Australia has at least one cattle station (ranch) that is bigger than the entirety of Israel, and several more that are nearly as large.

            And the urban area of the city of Melbourne, Victoria, is half the population and half the size of Israel. If you put the area and population of Australia’s 2 largest cities together, you get the population and size of Israel.

            And Australia has a whole 23 million people in it and is larger than the contiguous USA.

          2. And Israel’s only about 4/5 the size of Harney County, Oregon, home of Malheur and the Y’all Queda boys.

            Not that that’s very useful, since very few will know of or remember Harney County. I just like to remind easterners that the west is still full of wide-open spaces.

          3. I didn’t know that one, either. That even brings it closer to home, just by being in the USA.
            And the Y’All Quaida is such a perfect label!

        2. Jews actually poll slightly fewer than atheists in the US…if you combine atheists & agnostics, then there are almost 3 times as many of them as Jews. Add the self-identified “nothings” and the comparison’s just ridiculous.

          Plus there’s a good chance that many of those who declared themselves Jews are cultural Jews only. But it’s not like the racists/sectists make the distinction…


          (If WP doesn’t, add “https://” to the above link.)

          1. Jewish communities don’t kick us secular Jews out for non-belief. So, we still count.

            Now, if we were to convert to another religion, that would be different. Christianity’s long history is deliberately at the root of much western world anti-semitism (see or read “Constantine’s Sword”), so a Jew converting to Christianity is sort of like a former slave’s descendants choosing Christianity.

            (I imagine the same can be said for a Jew converting to Islam. Islam stole the Jewish heritage, added the Constantinian Christian ideals of empire building through military might, and exaggerated its antisemitism. In fact, for a current example of the latter, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=161JzPk5cxs.)

            That’s why Messianic Jews are only considered Jews to themselves and the Christians. For the Christians, Messianic Jews are further proof of the Second Coming being right around the corner, when all Jews, Messy or not, will wind up in Hell — unless God decides to be nice to the Messy ones.

            Apologies to any Messy Jews, here, for stating my understanding of the situation so bluntly.

          2. Jewish communities don’t kick us secular Jews out for non-belief.

            With numbers like that, it’s no wonder!

            For the Christians… when all Jews, Messy or not, will wind up in Hell

            The Christian sect I grew up in thought that Jews could get to Heaven without converting to Christianity because God had a special agreement with them. And Messianic Jews would be right in because they have both the special agreement and Jesus, so they are double good.

            Oddly, they also took the tiny number of Jews as evidence of the truth of the Bible. The reasoning went like this: If there was no God, this tiny tiny sect, Judiasm, would have been wiped out long ago. After all, lots of people have tried, from the Romans on down to Hitler. But they continue to exist and have an outsized impact on the world compared to similar sized groups. Ergo, God must be real and “protecting” them (odd definition of protect, given the Holocaust and all, of course… but any believer must have already made some kind of peace with malaria, cancer, and all the other awful things in the world…so, I guess, what’s one more?)

          3. It’s sort of a two sided issue. You provided the good side. I presented the bad side. How Christians believe both at the same time, I’ll never know, but those who do seem to prevail in the good side in theory and the bad side in practice. I recognize it when a new one finds out I’m Jewish and starts overflowing with words about how they love the Jews and how Jesus loved the Jews and …. Then, when I don’t respond with direct, reciprocal love out of desperate gratitude, they decide I’m just another ungrateful Jew who deserves God’s wrath. It’s almost amazing to watch.

          4. I wouldn’t call any of it the “good side” because it’s all disconnected from reality. Sooner or later, being disconnected from reality bites you.

          5. “…so a Jew converting to Christianity is sort of like a former slave’s descendants choosing Christianity.”

            Which of course most of them did!


  7. I agree that only incitement to violence should be censored (“Death to America & Israel” sounds pretty violent to me), but as long as the double standard exists, I will report appalling pages like these to Facebook and encourage my friends to do so. Maybe FB just isn’t getting enough pressure to delete anti-Semitic pages. Or they’re more afraid of Muslim reactions than those of Jews…

    1. Facebook reacts fast! Here is the reaction — as expected:

      “We reviewed your report of Death To America & Israel.

      Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the Page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”

  8. Let me admit that, when I saw the first cartoon, before reading where it was from, I thought it mocked the people who blame Jews for everything.
    The limitations of pictorial communication…

  9. These sites don’t get taken down, and I wonder why. Is it that the “offended” (Jews, most likely, but really it should be everyone) don’t complain[?]

    One reason, at least, is that the Christian Right — which for all its incessant carping about political correctness, has been quick to adopt the offense-and-insult-mongering strategy as its own (witness its continued fulmination over Obama’s 2008 “guns & religion” comment) — never raises its voice against actual anti-Semitism, another indication that the right’s pro-Israel posturing is driven not by any empathy with Jews or love for a Jewish state, but by its own eschatological and/or neocon agendas.

    1. “never raises”

      The thing is that while this was once true, I would argue that 9/11 shook up this reality and it is now more complex. That is the shift of focus to Islam forced many conservatives and libertarians to distinguish themselves from Islamic conservatism by beginning to articulate issues like gender equality, LGBT rights, free expression, and yes, antisemitism. Even if they were disingenuous at first, I think humans generally cannot maintain such a façade indefinitely.

      The shift of left media figures like Nick Cohen and Julie Burchill to more conservative publications like the Spectator also shows how this strategy eventually becomes the operative reality. The convergence of opinion between secular right publications and pro-Israeli Jewish media (e.g The Tablet) also shows the change in reality. It’s not Tory or Republican publications being pointed at as antisemitic but the Guardian and New York Times.

      Or take a once unimaginable phenomenon, a catty, flamboyant gay man like Milo Yiannopoulos becoming a superstar at Breitbart, who broke the Cologne sex assault story in English. Like Professor Coyne has noted too many stories of import appear only on rightwing media. I don’t admire these people, Milo and Burchill are both raging transphobes for example, but they do hit the mark on some issues like women’s rights and LGB rights.

      1. I agree with what you’ve said, Victoria.

        The point I had hoped to make is that there is a deep streak of anti-Semitism that has traditionally run through the rightwing, and especially through the Christian rightwing — and that the right’s current support for Israel (and its lip-service to “Judeo” in its blather about “Judeo-Christian” values) should not be taken as an abandonment of, or even as an inconsistency with, this anti-Semitism, since the latter arises from a separate source and remains prevalent on the right.

        In other words, you scratch a pro-Israel rightwing Christian, chances are still pretty good you’ll find an anti-Semite dwelling within.

  10. So mnay great points being raised in this thread, some of which I’m going to have to read up a bit more before I can make up my mind, but I wonder if the answer, at least in part when dealing with a social media platform, isn’t as simple as a lot of the Anti-Israeli crowd are just being dedicated followers of the herd. They aren’t chanting pro-Israeli slogans at U2 and Pearl Jam conscerts. The BDS movement is a lot longer on cache than it is on information and I honestly think a lot of the people in it don’t realize that they’re propagating a double standard, if not engaging in naked anti-semitism.

    1. There’s been a lot of research and investigation into anti-Israeli propaganda, lately, showing the distinction between real anti-Israel material and actual anti-semitic material masquerading as anti-Israel. Israel has become a surrogate in the growing wave of antisemitism worldwide. International organizations are focusing on this significant trend more and more, lately. I started recognizing it about 20 years ago, before it picked up enough momentum to be recognized by those with, perhaps, more objectivity and skepticism.

  11. Many things are mysterious to me.

    American Jews (in general) are pretty apathetic or hostile to the State of Israel.

    They often bend over backwards to be “fair” to Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic groups, while shutting down anti-Islamic posts. [And I would concede Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel are not the same.]

    It further seems that American Jews are in part welcoming newcomers to America and parts of Europe, who at least based on Pew polling, very strongly believe “who is really behind 9-11” and who on numbers can pretty much make Jews an insignificant demographic in a short time.

    Israel cannot survive if America and Europe turns on Israel.

    The Left are the “good-guys”, officially, and the Left wants Muslim immigration because they vote Left, and Muslims are disproportionately anti-Semitic (based on polling data), which suggests in the long-term that Anti-Semitism is going to be the philosophy of the “good guys” and Zionism the philosophy of the “bad guys” and reactionaries.

    I don’t think this is good for America, good for Israel, good for the Middle East or good for Left parties internationally.

  12. I have say this Jerry. Goodness me, how many hidden variables must be behind this test?
    I am not saying even the conclusion is wrong but there are so many potential variables?

    Some say, with surely a partial truth, that complaints from users count towards the algorithm or whatever they use. It might even vary according to the personnel who deal with it who might change day by day for all I know. I know that people put into these kind of jobs change drastically over a period of time for various and complex reasons.

    I perosnally also have made a lot of mistakes in assessing cartoons, articles and so on; it is notoriously hard and easy to miss impoortant things, dog-whistles and so on.

    I really don’t want to push partisan points either.

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