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Want to Combat Hate Speech on Facebook? Try a 'Like Attack,' Says COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Kill 'em with kindness.

Kimberly White / Getty Images

How should you fight back against people spewing hate speech in your Facebook News Feed? Kill ’em with kindness, of course!

That’s according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who spoke on a panel Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Sandberg talked about how Facebook tries to combat hate speech on its platform, and part of the strategy is encouraging counter-speech, the usually uplifting messages that provide the opposite viewpoints to degrading or negative language online.

Sandberg told a specific story about users in Germany who “Liked” a neo-Nazi Facebook page and then flooded it with positive messages. She called the effort a “Like attack.”

“The best antidote to bad speech is good speech. The best antidote to hate is tolerance,” she said. “Amplifying … counter-speech to the speech that’s perpetrating hate is, we think, by far the best answer.”

The strategy feels pretty “Kumbaya,” but that’s how Facebook has approached the issue of hate speech on its service, specifically when it comes to religious extremism and terrorism. Facebook will take down hate speech when it is flagged by a user, but it doesn’t go looking for it. That means the company is leaning on its user base to create positive content to fight against extremist material.

It’s making some effort to prod users in the right direction. Facebook is partnering with the U.S. government to encourage college students to launch anti-terrorism campaigns, for example. It is also partnering with the German government to better locate and remove hateful content. In both cases, Facebook is making financial contributions to the cause.

But the company is not using what is perhaps its most valuable asset in this matter: Its News Feed algorithm. Facebook claims that it doesn’t elevate this counter-speech in News Feed; it is instead offering a neutral playing field and hoping that positive speech wins out.

Facebook’s role in all of this has been top of mind for U.S. government officials, especially since a mass shooting took place in San Bernardino, Calif., back in December. Sandberg was part of a meeting between top government officials and Silicon Valley bigwigs earlier this month to discuss this very issue. Sandberg hasn’t spoken publicly about those meetings, so Wednesday’s panel was the first we’ve heard from her on this issue.

If you want to watch the entire panel you can do so here. Sandberg’s comments on counter-speech start right around the 18:00 minute mark.

This article originally appeared on

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