Earlier this week, the Huffington Post reported that a poll had been posted on Facebook asking users to vote, "Should President Obama be killed?" The poll was taken down by Facebook, prompted the Secret Service to investigate, and attracted considerable attention and controversy from the public.
Yet as the Washington Examiner and many HuffPostTech readers have observed, this type of hostile content is not new to Facebook, limited to polls, or even unique to President Obama. The offensive content -- and Facebook's reaction -- has brought fresh scrutiny to the content posted on the 300 million-member social networking site, as well as the uncertainties and irregularities that arise in monitoring (and censoring) Facebook's content.
Take, for example, the Facebook group "How Many People Wanna Kill Obama!" [sic] Although it has only one member, the group lists as its mission statement, "If you hate obama and u want him assainated join! [sic]"
If Facebook sees fit to remove a poll asking whether Obama should be killed, why would it condone a group that advocates and states explicitly the belief that indeed, Obama should be killed? Doesn't this group merit investigation -- and even removal -- as well?
In the midst of all the controversy surrounding the Obama poll, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the hostile content aimed at George W. Bush. The former president has no shortage of threatening, and oftentimes popular, Facebook groups dedicated to his demise, including, "LETS KILL BUSH WITH SHOES" (which has 482 members) and "We All Want To Kill George Bush" (which has 426 members)
Although no longer in office, should Facebook extend the same "courtesy" to Bush as it did to Obama, and remove the menacing content? And what about other politicians? Hillary Clinton has been targeted in groups such as "If Hillary Clinton is Elected I'm Shooting Her" and "Kill Hillary."
Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt admitted to the San Jose Mercury News that Facebook will oftentimes disable content that violates its taste standards, and that, "There is a lot of gray area." Given that it's still online, are we to understand that the content above does not violate those "taste standards?"
In all of this, however, we must remember that Facebook has so far been the messenger: the medium through which people broadcast their opinions and beliefs. Read more about this in Jose Antonio Vargas' response to the controversial Obama poll, "It's Not Facebook, It's The People Who Use Facebook."