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Woolworths disables Facebook wall: cites ‘hate speech’

South African retail giant Woolworths has disabled its Facebook wall after facing a barrage of accusations that its hiring policies discriminated against white people.

Stuart Thomas: Motorburn Editor
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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Earlier this week, a blogger (who may or may not be South Africa’s biggest online fraud) accused Woolworths of posting “racist” job ads on its website. Some of Woolworths’ job adverts state that the company is only seeking to hire non-white applicants for certain positions. Employment regulations in the country require any company that employs over 50 people to structure its workforce according to race, gender and disability.

This prompted a social media shit-storm. People flooded to the retailer’s Facebook page to complain about the company’s policy, announce that they would be boycotting Woolworths stores and to suggest that people support its competitors instead.

Even an innocent pavlova recipe came under attack, with people adding comments like “Putting a little bit of strawberries and cream on your mess won’t make up!” and “How did you make this without using the WHITE of the eggs?”

In its statement, Woolworths says that it disabled its wall because some of the comments amounted to hate speech. It didn’t give any definite time frame for when the wall would go back up, saying only that it would happen when “reasonable discussion” could be resumed:

Disabling our wall was not a decision we took lightly and not one we’re particularly happy about. But when your page becomes little more than a platform for a well-orchestrated campaign of hate speech, we owe it to our customers not to subject them to such vitriol in our own house.

We have, in a variety of channels, repeatedly refuted the claims being made against us. We have also allowed thousands of comments on our Facebook page, debating the pro’s and con’s of Employment Equity as a national debate… deleting only overt hate speech and comments inciting violence.

However we’ve always put our customers first… and many, many customers have asked us to stop hosting this vitriol. We will re-open our page as soon as we think we can resume reasonable discussion.