On Wednesday, Facebook announced a new policy entitled “Standing Against Hate.” The social media company will restrict “hate groups” and ban praise, support, and representation of white nationalism. This announcement should concern conservatives, but a Facebook representative made clear that the social media company is not relying on the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as the arbiter of “hate.”
“We don’t rely on any one outside group in the development of its policies. For each of the content policy decisions we make, we engage with dozens of outside groups from across the political spectrum,” Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja told PJ Media.
Given the SPLC’s campaign to “Change the Terms” on social media, this boilerplate response did not alleviate this reporter’s concerns. After some back and forth, Budhraja explained that many of the mainstream conservative and Christian groups the SPLC falsely slams as “hate groups” are not considered hate groups on Facebook.
For instance, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an accomplished Christian law firm. ADF has won nine Supreme Court cases in the past seven years. Even ADF’s ideological opponents — Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the secularist group Military Religious Freedom Foundation; and Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU — have vehemently disagreed with ADF being branded a “hate group.”
Yet the SPLC has continued to slam ADF and other conservative Christian organizations as “hate groups,” citing their alleged demonization of LGBT people. This is nonsense. These Christian groups do uphold the traditional Christian doctrine that marriage is between one man and one woman, but they do not advocate hate or violence against LGBT people, as the “hate group” label suggests.
Facebook is not taking the bait.
“Alliance for Defending Freedom isn’t a hate group under our policies,” Budhraja told PJ Media. “Belief in the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman wouldn’t, in and of itself, go against our policies – people’s positions on ideas, institutions, concepts aren’t something we restrict; it’s when those positions amount to attacks on people, that our policies kick in.”
This is a natural and welcome position, and one the SPLC might want to consider.
The SPLC does not just mark out “anti-LGBT hate groups” like ADF, however. The far-left smear factory also brands conservative organizations under the categories of “anti-Muslim hate groups,” “anti-immigrant hate groups,” and “general hate groups.”
Budhraja also told PJ Media that Facebook does not consider ACT for America — an “anti-Muslim hate group,” according to the SPLC — or the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) — an “anti-immigrant hate group” according to the SPLC — to be hate groups.
Facebook did not explicitly disavow the SPLC, which is currently embroiled in scandal over claims of racism and sexual harassment. The SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, President Richard Cohen stepped down, and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson removed herself from the Board of Directors. The smear factory also faces many lawsuits regarding its “hate group” labeling, and more lawsuits may come forward, especially since the SPLC paid $3.375 million in a defamation settlement last year.
Facebook is not cutting ties with the SPLC, despite all of this. However, they are also not following the SPLC’s malicious “hate group” labels. This is an important development, and other tech companies like Amazon should follow Facebook’s lead.
“Facebook has publicly declined to adopt the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) hate lists and that decision was even before scandals engulfed the SPLC in recent days,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian nonprofit that faced a terrorist attack thanks to the SPLC’s “anti-LGBT hate group” label, told PJ Media.
“We anticipate Facebook will avoid making an about face — especially now that the SPLC has been exposed from within as nothing more than a ‘highly profitable scam’ with fraudulent data, inflated ‘hate group’ numbers, and an internal culture of long-standing, long-ignored bigotry,” Perkins added.
He went further: “In the wake of former employees exposing the SPLC as a cesspool of bigotry and racism, we are calling on other big tech companies to cut any ties with the ‘con’ group. Those who have relied on the SPLC should understand that the scandal that claimed the organization’s founder, its president, several top attorneys, and now a board member is only unraveling a bigger story — years of systematic racism, sexual misconduct, and discrimination.”
Facebook still has to prove itself. Many conservatives and Christians have found their accounts suspended over mainstream conservative and Christian ideas. Facebook’s decision not to adopt the SPLC “hate group” labels does not erase the fact that it suspended global evangelist Franklin Graham on Christmas week for a 2-year-old post disagreeing with transgenderism. It does not erase the suspension of Christian scholar Robert Gagnon or the German historian who was suspended for saying Islam had little role in German history.
Even so, this is a step in the right direction, and other companies should follow suit, as Perkins said.
Unfortunately, 14 major companies that funded or partnered with the SPLC in recent years refused to comment when PJ Media asked about the smear group’s recent scandals. These offenders include Apple, Bank of America, Disney, Lyft, JP Morgan Chase, MGM Resorts, and Newman’s Own.
Journalists should also stop citing the “hate group” labels as if they had any authority. Facebook has rightly decided that ADF, ACT for America, CIS, and FRC are not “hate groups,” and journalists should follow suit.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.