- Facebook announced earlier this week that it will be banning all content related to white nationalism and white separatism from its platforms.
- To bolster efforts to combat hate, Facebook will connect people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to the organisation Life After Hate, founded by former extremists to counter violent ideologies and help people leave hate groups.
- Since 2011, Life After Hate has offered support to scores of people as they disentangle themselves from far-right extremism.
- “Radicalization doesn’t begin with violence. It often begins with vulnerabilities and grievances,” Life After Hate said in a statement. “We want people to know that we are here to listen to them.”
Facebook announced earlier this week that it will be banning all content related to white nationalism and white separatism from its platforms, the latest effort by tech giants to censor violence and hateful rhetoric online.
The news, first reported by Motherboard on Wednesday, comes two weeks after 50 people were killed by a gunman who ambushed two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shooter streamed the attack live on Facebook, with copies of the footage uploaded to the platform more than 1 million times. Before the attack, the gunman allegedly wrote a lengthy manifesto espousing his white nationalist views.
While the tech giant already banned white supremacy, the new policy acknowledges that “white nationalism and white separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organised hate groups,” according to a blog post on its website.
“They have always massaged their labels over time to not appear so ‘white supremacist,'” Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist who now runs an anti-hate non-profit, told INSIDER. “We used to call ourselves ‘white pride’ and ‘pro-white’ back in the day to seem like we were nice guys. They are all terms that mean the same thing… it’s like a spectrum of white nationalism, and some don’t even know they are on it.”
Facebook said that the new policy will officially go into effect next week. To bolster efforts to combat hate, the company will connect people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to the organisation Life After Hate, founded by former extremists to counter violent ideologies and help people leave hate groups.
What is Life After Hate?
The idea for Life After Hate originally came about in 2010 when Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist in Wisconsin, created an online magazine of the same name. He told Mother Jones that he felt adrift after leaving the Hammerskin Nation, considered one of the best-organised neo-Nazi skinhead groups in the US by the Anti-Defamation League, and wanted to take responsibility for his past. In August 2011, he launched the nonprofit organisation with a group of former white supremacists, including Picciolini.
Since then, the organisation has offered support to scores of people as they disentangle themselves from hate groups.
“I think of them as lost. Somewhere along the line, they find themselves in this place,” Tony McAleer, a former member of the White Aryan Resistance who helped co-found the organisation, told NPR. “I can tell you being in that place is not a fun place to be. When you surround yourself with angry and negative people, I guarantee you your life is not firing on all cylinders.”
Life After Hate’s budget is tight, according to Mother Jones, but they have benefited from some hefty donations – including $US50,000 from Colin Kaepernick in 2017.
While the organisation was awarded $US400,000 by the Obama administration to combat violent extremism, that federal grant was later revoked under President Donald Trump. Weeks later, white supremacists and white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for a deadly riot that left one woman dead and injured many others.
Picciolini, who is no longer with Life After Hate after starting the Free Radicals Project, told INSIDER that at the time, they were the only organisation that received a federal grant specifically focused on white supremacism. He said that they were never given an official answer as to why it was rescinded.
“Government interaction has been limited since the administration changed,” he said. “We used to have very good connections with people at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and those connections have become very, very limited.”
Despite the challenges, Life After Hate is committed to countering extremism. The organisation said in a statement that starting next week, Facebook searches for keywords associated with the violent far-right will include information on how those users can get in touch with its members.
“Radicalization doesn’t begin with violence. It often begins with vulnerabilities and grievances,” the statement said. “We want people to know that we are here to listen to them.”
- Read more:
- Leaked emails reveal Facebook’s intense internal discussion over Alex Jones’ ‘anti-Semitic’ post on Instagram
- White nationalists and the alt-right are disillusioned with Trump – and some are joining the Yang Gang
- A white nationalist conspiracy theory was at the heart of the New Zealand shooting. This isn’t the first time it’s been associated with terror attacks.
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