- Facebook, the world’s largest social-media network, banned white nationalism and white separatism on the platform on Wednesday.
- Facebook’s director of counterterrorism policy, Brian Fishman, told Motherboard that white nationalist and white separatist speech would begin to be treated the same as white supremacist content.
- The social-media network plans to target specific language related to the white nationalist movement and strong anti-immigration stances.
Facebook now says it will treat content posted by users advocating white nationalism and white separatism as hate speech, banning content and phrases associated with the movements and targeting specific language.
The news was first reported by Motherboard on Wednesday, and Facebook subsequently confirmed it in a blog post on its website. (A company representative did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.)
Facebook already considered white supremacy to be hate speech, and the new policy recognises the overlap between traditional white supremacy and movements like white separatism and white nationalism.
“Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion – and that has always included white supremacy,” the Facebook blog post said. “We didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and separatism because we were thinking about broader concepts of nationalism and separatism – things like American pride and Basque separatism, which are an important part of people’s identity.
“But over the past three months our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organised hate groups.”
Facebook’s director of counterterrorism policy, Brian Fishman, told Motherboard that the company had discussed the matter with more than 20 civil-rights organisations and experts in race relations before coming to the decision.
Facebook moderators are now expected to target for deletion any content and phrases supporting white separatism. Motherboard reports that Facebook will also recommend nonprofits that provide help to people in hate groups when hateful content is reported.
The ban arrives two weeks after 50 people were killed in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shooter streamed the attack live on Facebook, and copies of the footage were uploaded to the platform more than 1 million times. The suspect in the shooting also published a manifesto shortly before the attack that advocated racist views.
In December, a group of civil-rights organisations criticised Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, for their failure to deter bigotry and hate speech on the social-media platform. Sandberg said Facebook“needs to do more” to protect civil rights, and Motherboard reports that she had a role in crafting the new policy on white nationalism.
It’s one of numerous criticisms that have been leveled in recent months at Facebook, which has lurched from scandal to scandal over the past two years – from mishandling users’ data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal to helping spread hate speech that fuelled genocide in Myanmar.
The racial-justice organisation Colours of Change commended Facebook’s policy shift and encouraged other social-media platforms to ban white nationalist ideologies as well. The organisation said the spread of white nationalist ideologies on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon inspired the white supremacist violence in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
“As part of today’s announcement, we’ll also start connecting people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to resources focused on helping people leave behind hate groups,” Facebook added. “People searching for these terms will be directed to Life After Hate, an organisation founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach.”
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