St Augustine quote labelled hate speech by Facebook

Thu 18 Jul 2019
By Heather Preston

The social media site initially removed the words of the 5th century Catholic theologian because it violated their 'community standards on hate speech' according to Catholic blogger, Domenico Bettinelli.

The quote, which has now been restored, read: "Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticise, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others."

Mr Bettinelli reposted the quote after noticing it was taken down from the site after two priests posted the same extract.


A message was sent to Mr Bettinelli, notifying him that his post was in breach of their community rules, thought to be issued as the result of a Facebook algorithm.

Mr Bettinell argued that the quote is the opposite of hate speech, sharing the words of Matthew 7:3 to make his point: "Hate speech? It's the opposite of hate speech. It's calling for people to stop focusing on others' sins and concentrate on their own. Augustine is just re-formulating Jesus' own words from the Gospel: 'Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?'"

Following the incident, Mr Bettinelli requested that a human review reconsider the decision and later had his appeal rejected.

Facebook invited him to respond to the rejection to which Mr Bettinelli responded: "I still don't understand why this is hate speech. It's a quote from a Catholic saint who expresses the opposite of hate speech. He is essentially restating the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to stop worrying about what the other guy is or isn't doing and worry about your own flaws. Is Facebook saying that the Gospel is hate speech? But what's worse is that I have no more understanding now of what is a violation of your community standards than I did before. I cannot for the life of me figure out why you label this hate speech."

According to the Catholic Herald, a Facebook spokesperson said: "We've reviewed this post and can confirm it was removed in error. It has now been restored."

he wrote on Facebook: "Yep, Facebook has restored the St. Augustine quotes that it took down from my timeline. I've received no explanation, no notification, and no apology. 'Oopsie!'"


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