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. Hi Prairie Rose, I do take Magnesium and make bone broths, I probably don’t eat enough liver (ugh) or egg yolks. Definitly don’t not getting any seaweed. I have started using the pink Himalayan salt. I do eat he fermented vegetables, bake sourdough bread using kamut, spelt or einkorn flour. 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.

  2. Annie,
    The website you linked above seems to indicate that it is not the high fat-content of a Paleo diet that is problematic, it is micronutrient deficiencies.

    “We recommend eating a micronutrient-rich diet, including nourishing foods like egg yolks, liver, bone broth soups, seaweed, fermented vegetables, and so forth. But I think it’s only prudent to acknowledge and compensate for the widespread nutrient depletion that is so prevalent today. Even when nutrient-rich food is regularly eaten, micronutrient deficiencies are still possible.

    Eating Paleo-style is not enough to guarantee perfect health. Luckily, supplementation of the key nutrients that we need for health and that are often missing from foods will often get us the rest of the way.”

    Finding the reasons for the micronutrient deficiencies and resolving them should improve the LDL-P numbers.

    Enjoying the discussion! 🙂

  3. “So I guess I’m saying high saturated fat, even in a low carb diet may not be a good thing long term.”

    I am inclined to agree with you, Annie, yet questions linger.

    Do you think the source matters: for instance, grass-fed, humanely-raised animal fat versus fat from conventionally-raised animals?

    Could the content of the rest of the diet or health of the body affect how the body uses the fat–micro-nutrient deficiencies, lousy gut flora, stress, etc?

    Could someone with metabolic syndrome react poorly to such a diet, whereas someone who does not have metabolic syndrome be fine?

    “Also a C Reactive Protien test, which measures inflammation, if this is also high, it’s not a positive as it indicates that there could be inflammation in the blood vessels too, high risk for a coronary event.”

    High CRP is inversely related to zinc and magnesium intake (among other micro-nutrients), I have read. There are many roads to chronic inflammation, but micro-nutrient deficiencies are a major factor. I know CRP is associated with the saturated fat content of the diet, but that still leaves me wondering about the micro-nutrient content.

    Personally, I think cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil is best. Yum! 🙂

  4. Annie, that was probably pretty frustrating to lose and keep weight off but then have your numbers be off!

    How was your health prior to eating Paleo/low-carb, if I may ask? What does your diet mainly encompass now?

    That is interesting to know about the LDL-P; I’ll pass the info along to the person I know. Does the LDL-P test indicate particle size? The size of the LDL is important, as is the number of triglycerides, I believe.

    Interesting site:

    What have you been reading?

    I have been slowly healing from post-partum and autoimmune thyroid issues, so I am always eager to learn about health and nutrition.

  5. LDL-Ps are the bad cholesterol, P for particles. With NMR lipid testing, you will see the true picture of what is happening. LDL-P being the best indicator of the possibly of atherosclerosis. Also a C Reactive Protien test, which measures inflammation, if this is also high, it’s not a positive as it indicates that there could be inflammation in the blood vessels too, high risk for a coronary event. So I guess I’m saying high saturated fat, even in a low carb diet may not be a good thing long term.

  6. Prairie Rose, that is exactly how I have eaten the past two years. I did lose a good deal of weight and kept it off, BUT my LDL- P went through the roof, not good. So I’m back on a low dose statin and have cut back on the saturated fats, using cold pressed canola and olive oils. I’ve been reading about quite a few long term low carbers and Paleo eaters having he same issue with extremely high LDL- Ps.

  7. “People in the US don’t do that any more, because they’ve been fed a million excuses by corporate consumer culture/media to trick them into consuming more and more, and the 5 pounds turns into 50 which really is a huge challenge to lose.”

    It is not just the corporations and the media. Yes, food corporations do harness our desires for certain tastes because of the science behind food manufacturing–the bliss point for sugar, for example (Salt, Sugar, Fat. by Michael Moss).

    However, the government since McGovern has been advocating a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet to prevent heart disease and obesity. Problem is the science was shoddy, good science ignored, and scientists who didn’t jump on the low-fat bandwagon were vilified. (Good Calories, Bad Calories. by Gary Taubes; and somewhat in Fat Chance. by Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist).

    I know someone who has lost about 100 lbs and the cholesterol-lowering drugs, not by starvation and exercising like a maniac, but by eating healthier and by almost entirely eliminating grains, most dairy (except for raw cheese), and white potatoes. The family cooks with olive oil, lard, bacon grease, and coconut oil. They eat lots of veggies of all sorts (and no, corn does not count; it is a starch), fermented foods like sauerkraut, and homemade sourdough bread. Whether their food budget has gone up or down, I do not know.

  8. fat hatred should only be spoken about if and when you know the truth…. i personally dont know anyone who wants to be obese by choice.. but you cant tell these people who weigh 10 lbs soaking wet with cinder blocks tied to them.. anything along those lines. being skinny doesnt make you healthy trust me. i know … IM SKINNY always have been and yet at 45 i have maybe a year to live. there are medications out here that put weight on you. there are medical conditions ex thyroids , diabetes that also putS weight on you. and of course all the mouth all mightys refuse to acknoweldge and accept that everything they put in their mouths is a gmo filled with steroids. lmao to funny. again BEING SKINNY DOESNT MEAN YOUR HEALTHY. think its a lie go have a good look at me. HERES A FB LINK

    im the one in the black and white.. take the wig off my head.. looking at my pics im healthy. take the wig off my head and open up my INSIDES and see just how sick i am..

  9. Felix, I only read that she said it’s a problem if we just accept obesity (and increased diabetes/heart disease) as the new normal and I agree. If she’s pushing a bunch of expensive trendy celebrity diet hoo-ha, then she’s another trying to profit from other people’s food/body image neuroses.

    You cite the expense of healthy food, all I can tell you is where I live there are some supermarkets that charge much more than others, usually based on some elitist false assumption about quality. But more importantly packaged, processed food with a brand logo on it is even more expensive.

    The average person buying fast food for lunch will drop over $8, for that i can eat healthy for at least a day. Potato chips and Lucky Charms are much more expensive than healthy alternatives – real popcorn is less than $2 and makes a trash bag full of popcorn, generic healthier kinds of cereal cost half as much. Sorry I still don’t buy the “healthy food is too expensive rationalization”. Especially when it’s estimated Americans waste about 40% of what they buy.

    On top of that people in other cultures (and the US until recently) ate supposedly fattening “unhealthy” food with no obesity epidemic. Because common sense should tell you when you gain that first 5 pounds you don’t need on your tummy (like I did when I was about 12yo in 1966) it’s time to cut back a little and/or exercise more. People in the US don’t do that any more, because they’ve been fed a million excuses by corporate consumer culture/media to trick them into consuming more and more, and the 5 pounds turns into 50 which really is a huge challenge to lose.

    How can expense be the problem when the main cause of obesity is people consuming TOO MUCH food? Buy less, eat less, save $, enjoy an active life.

  10. One thing you guys are not reading the way she got skinning. She starved herself like actors and models. She would cut back her calorie count to nothing then exercise way to much, It is not a healthy way to diet.
    I agree with free speech its her right to be a bully. She is getting rich off you people by telling you I did it by following what actors and models do.
    I understand waht she is trying to say obesity is an issue but I truly blame the government(in some degree)) b/c they allow harsh chemicals to be used in food. I feel with chemicals being used could be contributing to the problem as well. There are some people that made them selves be that way on their own. But really everyone has feelings. I dont see her as a hero or any body special she just a mother that lost weight many women do that, she isnt the only one. I do not agree with her that is my free speech like her being a bully is her free speech.

  11. Plato’s cave you are completely wrong on health food is expensive is a myth. Where I live banana’s are 1.49 to 1.79 a lb compared to 2 years ago of .99 a lb. Apples are 2.69 a lb compared to 1.49 2 years ago. Red peppers are 2.99 a lb compared to 1.29 a lb. just for my veggie and fruits i spend 109.00 a week for a family of 4 that is not including other items i need. Look at beef prices and chicken prices. And pork is way up read articles that talk about it. Fish I refuse to buy b/c all of it is from china farmed and fed with pig poop. Heck I do not like hotdogs even they have gone way up. I remember 5 years ago when bananas were .39cents a pounds and red and green peppers were .99 cents a lb. for a family a four i spend almost 800 dollars in food compared to 2 years ago of almost 500 dollars

  12. We either have free speech or we don’t. Facebook should apologize to this lady and repost her comment. While I don’t agree with what she said, if social media starts censoring opinions, why would anyone put anything on Facebook?

  13. Felix, I’m sorry you feel persecuted, but as with the genetic rationalization, the idea healthy food is expensive is a myth. Brown rice is insanely cheap, cabbage, yams, spices (not just salt), tuna, chicken (a small healthy portion) the list of cheap healthy foods goes on and on. But you have to be willing to get off the couch and spend a few minutes in the kitchen to have cheap delicious food. I’m about the cheapest person on earth. Despite what elitist assumptions people make, there is perfectly good produce at low cost food outlets here in Inglewood, CA which most elites consider the ghetto (but is in fact a really nice neighborhood).

    You may disagree, but calling someone who cares and is trying to empower people to take control of their health a “bully” is unfair.

  14. Whats your excuse? she is asking. One thing she is not considering most of America can not afford the HEALTHY FOOD so they are pushed to buy the food that is high in sugar, calories, and carbs. Then on top of things most people are stressed with real life issues and with all of those things combined people will gain weight faster and easier. Most people are not rich like her so she should not comment on things that would consider her a bully. She is a very shallow person and I hope she can be a better person.

  15. I don’t see where the article is offensive. That said, I write a column for the national pain report. One was about among other things, a 12 step group for those in chronic pain that follows the AA model, anonymity etc.
    I wrote that I found this to be a very bad idea, we have a disease/disorder and should not have to be ashamed of it. It is not something that responds to making amends, etc.
    I was astounded that a thread started, ironically on an FB chronic pain support page, that took me to task, sometimes nastily, for saying I think chronic pain is something amenable to the 12 step philosophy. When I found it I wrote and set them straight; I was against it – not for it, and the thread ended (with a few apologies to me ((*_*)) )
    This is the problem with FB and the internet in general. You take something the wrong way and turn it into something it isn’t/you are outright nasty and worse in responding. FB was wrong to take it down, right to put it back up and you have to wonder how the poster wrote her complaint, looks like he/she might have been the one engaging in some form of hate speech against Kang

  16. I have my own issues with Facebook, as I am blocked, and have been for over 2 month for posting a few political cartoons referencing the imminent shutdown that the Republicans in Congress were attempting to perpetrate.

    Here is my note I posted on my Facebook page, because I am still allowed to post on my own page.
    “Beheadings- OK, Hate Groups- OK, Racist Hate-mongering Ex-Police Chief Kessler Rants- OK, Hateful and Ignorant TeaBagger Rants wishing my Death- OK! But Posting Political Cartoons on John Boehner’s Page – NOT OK!, EVIL! & You Get Blocked!”
    – November 5, 2013 at 3:17pm –

    SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has announced that it will not remove videos or images of people being beheaded as long as they are uploaded with good intentions.

    The firm said that there are controversial acts that happen in the world and that often people want to share photos of them so that they can be condemned. This can be extended to all sorts of things, of course, and beheadings might just be one of them.

    But God forbid if you post any pertinent political cartoons on Office of Speaker Boehner Facebook Page, and you get banned and blocked from posting on any group or page you are a member of or friendly too, and you can no longer give feedback to your own congressional delegation, and seeing as they are using Facebook for feedback from their constituents these days, well Facebook is now censoring political speech that they don’t like or their benefactors don’t like.

    This corporate-government partnership is known a fascism!
    Yep, that’s Facebook for ya!

  17. From the headline I expected the article to be much more brutal. I don’t understand how anyone who actually read what she wrote could think of it as hate-speech as some commenters have.

    At the heart of the matter (much like whether being gay is a “choice” or not) is this idea of people being fat because of their genes. While it is true some people are genetically predisposed to gain weight MORE EASILY than others, there IS NO GENE THAT MAKES PEOPLE HAVE TO BE FAT.

    The idea that the obesity epidemic is genetic is clearly false, the HUMAN GENOME DOES NOT CHANGE IN THE COURSE OF A GENERATION, and in the 50’s and 60’s people were eating foods (whole milk, egg yolks, red meat, etc) that are now vilified as “fattening” with no obesity epidemic.

    What has changed is exactly what Kang was talking about in her article – the cultural idea of what is normal. What is deemed a normal food portion has doubled or even tripled in the last 40 years. It is all part of a culture that defines people by what they buy and consume – more is always better. Add to this the selling of convenience and vicarious activity (sports on TV, video games) to keep you inactive, and a legion of “experts” making money telling people what they want to hear (it’s not your fault) and you get an epidemic that ruins people’s health, bankrupts economies and deprives people of the full enjoyment of the most beautiful gift they will ever receive – the wonderfully designed human body.

    The emotional blackmail (don’t criticize me or I’ll just eat even more) is the manipulation of an addict culture. What would you say to a child who said “don’t criticize me or I will just act out more”, or a drug addict who said the stress of criticism would just make him resort to even more drugs to escape?

    This is not hatred of fat people, it is an attempt to empower people to realize their health and happiness is entirely in their control no matter what the people profiting from the fat-enabling industry industry tell you.

  18. @nick spinelli Oh, really? There are billions of genes in the human genome, and the gene that determine facial shape is the same one that leads to obesity? I don’t think so.

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