Today, the Oversight Board selected a case appealed by a Facebook user regarding a comment with a meme depicting Turkey having to choose between “The Armenian Genocide is a lie” and “The Armenians were terrorists who deserved it,” per Facebook.
“Facebook took down this content for violating our policy on hate speech, as laid out in our Community Standards. We do not allow hate speech on Facebook, even in the context of satire, because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion, and in some cases, may promote real-world violence,” Facebook said.
“We will implement the board’s decision once it has finished deliberating, and we will update this post accordingly. Please see the board’s website for the decision when they issue it,” Facebook added.
In December 2020, a Facebook user in the United States posted a comment containing an adaptation of the “two buttons” meme. This meme featured the same split-screen cartoon from the original meme, but with the cartoon character’s face substituted for a Turkish flag. The cartoon character has their right hand on their head and appears to be sweating. Above the cartoon character, in the other half of the split-screen, there are two red buttons with corresponding labels, in English: “The Armenian Genocide is a lie” and “The Armenians were terrorists who deserved it.” The meme was preceded and followed by “thinking face” emoji.
The user’s comment was in response to a post containing an image of a person wearing a niqab with overlay text in English saying: “Not all prisoners are behind bars.” At this point, the Board does not have access to all the intervening comments, and the meme may have been a response to one of those intervening comments.
Facebook removed the post under its Cruel and Insensitive Community Standard after one report from another Facebook user. Under this standard, Facebook removes content that “targets victims of serious physical or emotional harm,” including “explicit attempts to mock victims and mark as cruel implicit attempts, many of which take the form of memes and GIFs.” Subsequently, Facebook reclassified its removal to fall under its Hate Speech Community Standard.
The user states in their appeal to Facebook that “[h]istorical events should not be censored” and that their comment was not meant to offend but to point out “the irony of a particular historical event.” The user also speculates that Facebook misinterpreted their comment as an attack. The user also states that even if the content invokes “religion and war” it is not a “hot button issue.” The user also finds Facebook and its policies overly restrictive and argues that “[h]umor like many things is subjective and something offensive to one person may be funny to another.”