Does the Declaration of Independence Include ‘Hate Speech’? Facebook Thinks So

In an effort to clean up its platform and appeal to a dwindling user base, Facebook has been intensifying measures to combat fake news and hate speech. One of the social media giant’s main strategies has involved employing automated algorithms intended to scan user posts for banned content. But this approach has produced some unintended consequences.

A small Texas newspaper, The Liberty County Vindicator, commemorated this year’s Independence Day by posting the Declaration of Independence in segments on its Facebook page. Much to the page manager’s surprise, one of these posts was automatically removed for containing “hate speech.”

The offending excerpt comes from the document’s list of grievances against the King of Great Britain:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Since then, Facebook has officially apologized.

Not many Americans are likely to remember this blatantly racist passage from the Declaration of Independence. Sure, those of us who were students many years ago might still be able to recite much of the opening passage, but the “merciless Indian Savages” bit isn’t usually brought up.

But maybe it should be.

After all, U.S. political debates often default to “What would the Founding Fathers have to say?” For example,  gun control advocates sometimes argue that the Founding Fathers couldn’t have possibly foreseen the future of firearms and gun violence, making the Second Amendment outdated. Similarly, gun access advocates may counter that the word of the Founding Fathers remains infallible.

But people across the political spectrum frequently place the Founding Fathers upon a pedestal. Many individuals hold Thomas Jefferson  in particularly special regard. Often viewed as a rational intellectual, Jefferson is also revered for his instrumental role in drafting the Declaration of Independence. NPR even hosts a long-running radio show, The Thomas Jefferson Hour, where a historian tries to respond to interview questions as Jefferson might.

Regardless of this romanticism, the reality isn’t so kind to the Founding Fathers. The undeniable fact is that these people represented a narrow demographic — land-owning white men — and despite the lofty ideals touted in some of this country’s foundational documents and laws, they were drafted to enrich and entrench this elite group.

One of the most important ways the Founding Fathers and other white, landed gentry of the time rationalized this perspective was through the lens of Eurocentrism and white supremacy.

Enslaved African laborers and native peoples were, using Thomas Jefferson’s words, “merciless savages,” after all — and it was the white man’s duty to dominate them. How else would one justify the massive wealth accrued on the backs of chained slaves or from indigenous land-snatching?

Donald Trump’s infamous presidential campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” fails to acknowledge that the country was never greater than it is today. While United States still has much work to do to live up to “land of the free,” it’s important to examine the past with a critical lens — not just revere it.

Photo Credit: Luke Michael/Unsplash

54 comments

RONALD Walker
RONALD Walker2 months ago

Please remember this "In order to make a more perfect Union"! Change is apart of our Constitution. Updating our laws should be a major of Congress work!

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Latoya B
Latoya Brookins2 months ago

I just started watching Timeless s1 and this is making me think of that.

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Mary B
Mary B2 months ago

You tell me nothing of value. Numbers ? Come on David. What were the times periods, the values, the way the money circulated thru the economy, the well being of the people. Since I don't trust your opinion or your integrity , why don't you just scroll down and read what Care 2 stands for and against instead of just assuming Socialism from your memory is what I'm talking about.If you're here to argue your rightwing talking points, nobody is interested. This is NOT a news sight, This IS a site for liberal progressives. Nothing for you here.

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David F
David F2 months ago

Mary B, France has had what, 15 constitutions to our one. The last one amended 89 times. Is that what you perfer?

Justice Scalia who says. "I look to the words of the Constitution, but I ask, what did those words mean to the society that adopted them?"
As an originalist, He believed that it was literally a crime to substitute his personal opinion for the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution and that the Constitution was not an evolving document from generation to generation, if it did, the underpinning of our whole society would be deteriorated. Is it perfect, no it is not perfect, but of all of the legal theories out there, it is the best among them. Laura Ingraham former law cleric for Justice Clarence Thomas.

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Mary B
Mary B2 months ago

I've never been particularly impressed by the Founding Fathers or their documents BECAUSE they thought they[ the documents ]should never be evolved. They were landed white men, many of whom owned slaves, and thought women were inferior and shouldn't vote. There is no place for that kind of thinking in todays world. Yet it seems too many just give lip service to reverence for it instead of actually questioning what it actually up holds. Keep government small? They were talking about 13 colonies, not 50 states and several territories for Pete's sake. There had been no westward expansion, or Chinese immigrants to build the trans continental rail roads, the wagon trains west, the indian wars, the forced movement of them onto reservations, and so many more things, not the least of a new and different kind of Socialism to handle the work of making sure as many as possible had a share of the money supply so the whole country could thrive, not just a few. What is required today is so far beyond the Constitution as it was constructed, it is time to archive it with it's history and redo the rules of conduct for todays world and technology. That's going to require a large government run by people of high integrity and vision.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Carole R
Carole R2 months ago

Things were different back then. Things that are now unaccepotable were common place then. Times change, hopefully always for the better. Two hundred years from now (if we survive) people will look back and wonder how we could think they way we do.

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Dot A
Dot A2 months ago

Interesting read here. Most comments lean toward the honest expression of thought. Without honesty it becomes ever more difficult for communication to be used successfully towards a common good goal. Deception is used when selfish goals are being pursued. What our nation has strived to protect is our free thinking, our expression of that personal thought, and our common good that is achieved through truth. At the core of all honest communication is the desire for life to be better. However, some mind-sets have been contaminated either through abuse, poor guidance, or an ego which has not learned humility. Therefore, while we should all hope for constructive communication, we must also discern the words that are destructive, non-supportive to others, and lack integrity. Our words matter. Over time those words reveal the intensions of the speaker. The Constitution of the United States designed our nation to reveal what is true and accurate, over time, with experience, and by paying attention to what is said, who said it, when it was said, and why. If we pay attention, we can connect the dots to reveal the pattern of intention. Our freedom to know, and our freedom to share our ideas, via our voices.

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Winn A
Winn A2 months ago

:-(

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Winn A
Winn A2 months ago

Noted

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