Facebook is taking steps to try and eradicate racist and terrorist speech from its service.
It’s launched the “Online Civil Courage Initiative” (OCCI) in the UK, giving funding and training to organisations which are trying to tackle hate speech. The initiative is already live in Germany and France.
For its UK effort, Facebook has enlisted the help of Brendan Cox, the husband of Jo Cox, an MP who was attacked and killed in West Yorkshire last year. Brendan Cox now runs a charitable foundation in his wife’s name.
The other launch partners comprise various community groups — the Jewish-focused Community Security Trust, the anti-Islamophobia group Tell MAMA, and Imams Online.
Facebook hasn’t said how much money it’s committing to the OCCI in the UK, but pledged $US1 million (£790,000) when announcing the German version in January.
Politicians have put tech companies under huge pressure to try and get rid of extremist content online. Theresa May and the G7 leaders signed a measure last month promising they would all pressure tech firms to remove terror propaganda that is “warping young minds.” Their thinking is that the ready availability of propaganda might be encouraging new terrorists.
The OCCI is one of several new measures from Facebook to make the social network looks like it’s doing something.
A press release about the OCCI’s efforts in the UK was vague on practical measures. The company said it would give a “direct” line to NGOs who monitor for online extremist content. It also said it would effectively give free ads to NGOs trying to counter hate speech on Facebook. And the OCCI will help fund academic research into “online and offline patterns” of extremism.
Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement: “The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester — like violence anywhere — are absolutely heartbreaking. No one should have to live in fear of terrorism — and we all have a part to play in stopping violent extremism from spreading.”
She added: “There is no place for hate or violence on Facebook.” Sandberg said it was important to counter terrorist speech online through partnerships with governments, academic researchers, and NGOs. “The UK Online Civil Courage Initiative will support NGOs and community groups who work across the UK to challenge the extremist narratives that cause such harm,” she said. “We know we have more to do — but through our platform, our partners and our community we will continue to learn to keep violence and extremism off Facebook.”
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