Campus users ignore Facebook’s hate speech, say social platform is too important to give up


Allan McAlpine, Ian Perez, and Ben Ayon

Many students believe that Facebook is a platform that spreads hate speech, but they say the best way to deal with it is to ignore it.

“I don’t want to be involved in it,” said Jillian Almanza, sophomore Elementary Education major. “I feel that if I put my two cents into something, it will just backfire. Everyone has their own opinions.”

Though PNW students acknowledge that hate speech is common on Facebook, many rely on the platform to keep in touch with friends, monitor trends, get news feeds and other things. 

A former Facebook employee and whistleblower said the company counts on that desire to connect to keep people engaged with the platform. Frances Haugen, told Congress on Oct. 5 that Facebook’s leadership encourages platform tweaks to fuel growth, a design that she said publicizes controversial opinions and memes and promotes political divisions, mental health harms and even violence.

“Facebook is popular with a lot of [people who have] political differences and views,” said Natalie Rubio, freshman Psychology major. “Republicans against Democrats, liberals and conservatives and now with COVID, people disagree to the point where they get very hostile.”

The company has said it prioritizes friends, family, and groups over news publishers.  It has said engagement – or the number of likes, clicks, views, and shares that a post generates – is one of the most heavily weighted parts of its algorithm. The algorithm determines which posts are promoted – and to whom.

To keep people engaged, increasing their exposure to more revenue-producing ads, Haugen said Facebook prioritizes posts in people’s feeds that are more likely to elicit reactions — and therefore, clicks. Many of the engaging posts are controversial and, in many cases, disparaging of political, ethnic or gender groups.  

“Unfortunately, given the algorithms that govern what we each see on social media, the more we engage with those types of speech, it is likely that we see more of those types of speech in the future,” said Yu Ouyang, professor of Political Science. 

The hate speech issue is so widespread that many students said they do their best to ignore it.

“I really don’t engage in it because I feel it’s wasted energy,” said Anna Contreras, junior Nursing student. “If I’m at least reporting it, then I have done something about it. But I’m not engaging with you, I’m not trying to change your mind.”

Harlie Durham, junior Human Resource Management major, agrees that little can be done to eliminate the problem.

“There is a lot of hate speech in the comment sections and groups on Facebook. People fighting over things that don’t matter in the end anyway,” she said. “I deal with hate speech on Facebook by ignoring it and moving on. I choose to ignore it because it is not worth getting into a fight on the internet with random people over random stuff.”

Karina Farfan, a sophomore studying Early Education, said she feels the same way – to a point.

“I tend to just keep scrolling,” she said. “If someone really bothers me then I’ll report it. Otherwise I just roll my eyes and keep going.”