There's no outrage like a faux outrage

"Facebook rules do not protect black children from hate crime" reports The Times today.

A rather striking headline I'm sure you'll agree, but if you bother to read the article you'll see Facebook's rules do nothing of the sort.

From the article:

"ProPublica, a US journalism website, shed further light yesterday on Facebook’s criteria for removing posts by revealing some of the slides used when training censors.

One slide shows three groups: female drivers, black children and white men and asks: “Which group is protected from hate speech?”

The correct answer, according to Facebook, is white men. That is because both race and gender are protected categories, while age and driving status are not."

This is of course an entirely sensible policy. It's not, as the headline suggests, carte blanche for bigots to spew abuse at black children and female drivers. The question is merely designed to work out if Facebook's moderators understand what is and what isn't a protected group.

If a racist were to post verbal abuse that explicitly singled out black children, then the post would almost certainly fall foul of Facebook's rules by attacking a group on a protected charecteristic - race. The same would be true of a sexist sending nasty abuse to female drivers, it'd be covered by the protected charecteristic - gender.

It isn't the first time The Times has gone after a tech company on spurious grounds. In the past I've noted how they attacked Airbnb over supposedly secretive lobbying tactics. Of course, Airbnb were doing nothing of the sort. They simply invited some Airbnb hosts to dinner in Notting Hill and canvassed their opinions about the services. It's hardly cash for questions.

The Times is usually an excellent paper. I read it cover to cover every day, especially enjoying columnists such as Matthew Parris, Viscount Ridley and Rachel Sylvester. But it’s also becoming worryingly anti-tech in its journalism.