Facebook: Racist page distasteful but not in violation of terms

Facebook has at last responded to the public furore over a fan page which debased indigenous Australians, saying while it didn't agree with the page's views, it wasn't in violation of its terms of use.

While the page itself had been taken down by the page administrator the social media company released a statement late last night after days of silence. SBS first reported on the content of the page on Tuesday afternoon.

Facebook's response acknowledged that people may have been offended by the content on the page but defended the social network as a service devoted to helping people share information. It said the company does not remove any content in its entirely unless it expressly violates its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities but may restrict access if the content contravenes local laws.

The Race Discrimination Commissioner Helen Szoke has publicly said the page may violate the federal Race Discrimination Act, which contains a section on racial vilification.

Facebook said the company is engaged with the Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner over the issue.

A statement from Facebook said: “We recognise the public concern that controversial meme Pages that Australians have created on Facebook have caused. Facebook does not share these views, but while incredibly distasteful, this Page currently does not violate our terms. Facebook is a service devoted to helping people share and making he world more open and connected. We believe that sharing information, and the openness that results, invites conversation, debate and greater understanding.

“At the same time, we recognise that some content that is shared may be controversial, offensive or even illegal in some countries. While we do not remove this type of content from the site entirely unless it violates our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, out of respect for local laws, we may restrict access to content that violates local laws. We not that the Australian Communications and Media Authority are undertaking an investigation of these Pages and we are engaged in a constructive dialogue with the Australia Race Discrimination Commissioner.”

The Race Discrimination Act currently makes racial vilification 'unlawful' rather than illegal. Last year, controversial News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt was found to be in breach of racial vilification legislation in a civil court. Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal legal protections against racial vilification.

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