Facebook called out for St Augustine quote hate speech decision

Social media giant Facebook ran into determined opposition after describing a St Augustine quote as “hate speech” and removing it from its site.

Domenico Bettinelli, a pro-life activist from Massachusetts, immediately wrote a blog post about Facebook taking down the Divine Office passage.

Facebook had said it took it down because it violated Facebook’s “Community Standards on hate speech”.

The quote says:

“Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon.

“But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others.

“They seek to criticise, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.”

Bettinelli likens the quote to the gospel of Matthew 7:3, in which Jesus talks about pulling the log out of your own eye before accusing someone else of having a splinter in theirs.

In his blog, he asked if the Gospel would also be “hate speech by Facebook’s standards?”

Bettinelli also posted the quote on Facebook after he saw the social media giant had flagged it after two priests posted it.

The priests said they thought an algorithm rather than a person would flag the content.

After his post was also removed, Bettinelli asked for a human review appealing the decision.

His appeal was rejected.

“I still don’t understand why this is hate speech,” he wrote in his blog.

“It’s a quote from a Catholic saint who expresses the opposite of hate speech. He is essentially restating the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to stop worrying about what the other guy is or isn’t doing and worry about your own flaws.

“Is Facebook saying that the Gospel is hate speech?”

Bettinelli’s blog continues: “But what’s worse is that I have no more understanding now of what is a violation of your [Facebook’s] community standards than I did before. I cannot for the life of me figure out why you label this hate speech.”

A Facebook spokesperson has confirmed the post has been reviewed and said it was removed in error.

The post has now been restored.

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