On Wednesday at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse pressed social media companies on the definition of hate speech and how pro-life advocacy is not violence.
A video is included. The transcript is found below.
Senator Sasse: Can you define hate speech?
Mr. Neil Potts (Facebook): Senator, thank you, I'll take a stab at it. Both giving you the definition from a Facebook position, but I - we’re also recognizing there's not a universal definition of hate speech across the globe. So, to Facebook the way we define hate speech is an attack against a person or a group of people based on their protected characteristic like race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, as well as serious disability. We define attack to mean, something like, using words that are dehumanizing, cause for violence, contempt or disgust, exclusion or segregation. But I think your point is...is the accurate one, is to how do you draw those lines to allow a free flow of ideas, to allow debate, but also for us to keep the community safe. So, we on my team, and the teams that we work with, we really fight through that, that struggle abounds in voice vs. safety. So, we want to give voice to more people. We err on the side of giving voice. There is a lot of content that I find, perhaps, offensive - and maybe some of you all would find offensive as well - that we allow on the platform because it doesn't violate our policies. But, when we draw the line, and we say that that this type of speech is going to lead to violence, it is dehumanizing, we do remove it under our policies. And...
Sen. Sasse: I don't mean to be rude. I don't want to interrupt you, if we had a lot more time here. But I just want to ask a precise point here because I'm well over time right now. A lot of the context of this debate is around the pro-life movement and when you bring up violence, I mean, there's violence in abortion. It's in the abortion. Can you explain to me how the pro-life position is in any way violent, and how any community standards could ever say a pro-life person's speech should be shut down because somehow?
I don't follow from this...I could understand how you could say that a whole bunch of positions advocating the most extreme abortion laws that exist on earth: the U.S., China, North Korea, and Vietnam are the only nations that allow abortion until moments before delivery. Out of 200 countries there are four on Earth that do that. We're one of those four. There's clearly violence associated with that conversation. It's on the abortion advocates' side of the debate. How is the pro-life side ever guilty of something that equates to violence? Like, how could a pro-life position ever be shut down because of safety?
Mr. Potts: That's a great question Senator. And, to be clear, a lot of this depends on intent...and in the context of statements or images or video as are shared so it's hard to do the hypothetical. But a general pro-life position would not be violating our community standards for hate speech.