Fitness Advocate Removed From Facebook After A Posting Critical of Plus-Sized Woman In Article Allegedly Labeled “Hate Speech”

269345_563544480343178_994161050_nWith many of us rolling out of bed moaning from the food the consumed on Thanksgiving, I felt a wonderfully depressing fat story was appropriate to get us back into our guilt-ridden regimes. Maria Kang, fitness guru and mother of three, is not exactly the bedside nurse that you would want on such occasions. Kang has been banned from Facebook after she criticized an online article showing plus-size women in lingerie. While this is not a free speech issue involving the government, there is a question of whether Facebook should have taken it upon itself to punish someone for her view of obesity and what she views as an unhealthy lifestyle. More importantly, the controversy raises the issue of the expanding definition of “hate speech.”

Kang is well known for her posting of “No Excuse” messages telling people to work out and eat better. She is in that sense not unlike many fitness advocates. You may recall that Richard Simmons once drove around with a license plate that read, “YRUFAT.”

That is clearly not the message of many medical and health experts who note that people often have a genetic predisposition to weight gain and that the public perception of over-weight people is discriminatory and harmful (including pushing young people toward anorexia and other eating disorders).

However, Kang felt that the article in the Daily Mail embodied a new tolerance of being over-weight that has gone too far in the other direction. She told her followers that “I’m just saying the truth. We’ve become a politically correct society.” She added “The popular and unrelenting support received to those who are borderline obese (not just 30-40lbs overweight) frustrates me as a fitness advocate who intimately understands how poor health negatively effects a family, a community and a nation. While I think it’s important to love and accept your body, I was a little peeved because I think that we’re normalizing obesity in our society.”

As someone who struggles with weight (I’m working on it!), I must say that I am not offended by these words even if I think that she could have been more concerned over the constant drumbeat for people, particularly young girls, to be thin at all costs. However, I was quite surprised when Facebook declared the words to be “hate speech” and shutdown her account.

Facebook said that “a user” complained about the “content of her page” and it was removed by Facebook. They later restored it and called it a mistaken decision, but notably it took not only two days but the challenged post was gone.

The Daily Mail reported on Kang and the original purpose behind the pictures of the “plus sized” women.

Kang says that the site was taken down as “hate speech” by Facebook. It seems clear that Facebook does not consider such statements to be hate speech in retrospect, though I would like to know what happened to the posting deemed offensive. Notably, in San Francisco and London, activists are demanding that denigrating someone as fat should be treated as a hate crime like race, age, or faith. “Fatism” is already banned in San Franscisco in housing and workplaces. The San Francisco law even restricts doctors pressuring patients to lose weight. Now, activists are demanding the same type of protection in London. The effort is part of the Size Acceptance Movement, which probably began with the reign of Henry VIII but was more recently formed to end discrimination against the over-sized. Discriminatory businesses and people (who I presume will be called “fatists”) would be treated the same as people who engage in racist hate speech.

I have written columns on the threat of non-discrimination law and hate speech laws to free speech (here and here). We have also discussed such conflicts in blog postings. This case raises such a concern, though this is private not governmental action. Here one person found Kang’s comments to be offensive and triggered a suspension from Facebook as offensive speech. We are seeing a trend toward narrower ranges of permissible speech imposed in the name of tolerance and pluralism. For free speech advocates, it is a far more dangerous trend than prior censorship from governments.

Notably, Facebook’s definition of hate speech is quite broad and includes “attacks” on the basis for disability or disease:

Content that attacks people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease is not allowed. We do, however, allow clear attempts at humor or satire that might otherwise be considered a possible threat or attack. This includes content that many people may find to be in bad taste (ex: jokes, stand-up comedy, popular song lyrics, etc.).

The definition includes and exception for humor but not political speech. Thus a “bad joke” is protected but not an unpopular view of a scientific or societal issue. In my view, the definition invites objections to content and allows too much discretionary and ill-defined regulation of speech.

As for Kang, I doubt I would agree with her views on weight issues but I think that her voice should be heard and debated on the merits — not subject to an effort by this one reader to silence her because of a disagreement with her views. What do you think?


45 thoughts on “Fitness Advocate Removed From Facebook After A Posting Critical of Plus-Sized Woman In Article Allegedly Labeled “Hate Speech””

  1. Ugh. Sorry, Annie. “How do you feel your other conditions are being managed?” That was probably a bit too personal. I have a few on Kresser’s list, too, and I get interested when others express an interest in health and nutrition. 🙂 I feel like my health is improving. I hope yours does, too.

  2. Dang, I thought the youtube link was going to take you to the site with the playlist, not include the playlist! Search for Dr. Terry Wahls on youtube. She has MS and is doing research into the role of nutrition in chronic disease. Her story is fascinating.

    “Some more causes of elevated LDL-P from Dr. Chris Kesser, paleo advocate. I’ve got a couple of the conditions he lists.”

    I like Chris Kresser’s site, too. Many of the conditions he listed stem from micronutrient deficiencies and stress. I learned that part of my thyorid’s trouble stems from a deficiency of selenium and zinc, not just iodine.

    Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig details the physiology of metabolic syndrome, weight gain, and the role of diet in this mess, as well.

    How do you feel your other conditions are being managed?

  3. What is going on with this society. It seems anything anyone says is offensive. Facebook is ridiculous. Some people are just to damn sensitive. Great article by the way

  4. Hi Annie,
    “I probably don’t eat enough liver (ugh)”
    Me neither. I did make some, minced it and added it to a beef soup. It was edible then. I have heard that the origin of the liver matters. Beef liver is stronger-tasting than veal or chicken. I have only tried the beef liver and it was too grainy. (If anyone else reading this has a good liver recipe, I’m all ears!) 🙂

    “Definitly don’t not getting any seaweed.”
    I add a piece of kombu to soups. It helps soften beans and aids digestion. I have not noticed any flavor change and have used it in chicken, turkey, beef, and bean soups.

    “bake sourdough bread using kamut, spelt or einkorn flour.”
    The souring does help with denaturing of the phytates, which improves digestion and nutrient absorption. However, if you have a gluten sensitivity (or any other food sensitivity) due to a leaky gut (which is caused by stress, toxins, etc), then even sourdough could cause malabsorption. Those flours are lower gluten, but still contain it.

    I am gluten and dairy-free due to my thyroid issues and also have sensitivities to these things. If I get even butter in me I start to feel like I have arthritis in my foot.

    Do you take a *good* multivitamin (one without binders and fillers)? If you have micronutrient deficiencies this could help address that.

    Do you eat 6-9 cups of veggies every day (especially kale)?
    Here’s the story behind those numbers:

    What fermented foods, aside from sourdough, do you enjoy? I like kimchi, though my husband can’t stand the smell. Do you make your own fermented foods (aside from the sourdough)?

    My doctor practices functional medicine. Here’s the link to the Institute for Functional Medicine:

    “My numbers have improved, but I tend to attribute it to the low dose Statin. I am going to try to go off statins again for a while and see what happens.”

    Did you have a CRP test? You mentioned it in an earlier post.

    Good luck!

Comments are closed.