Since it allowed the Christchurch shooting video to livestream on its platform, Facebook has faced increased public scrutiny. That wasn’t helped by a report earlier this week that showed Facebook allowed Neo-Nazi groups to remain on the platform, because they “do not violate community standards.”
Now, the company has suddenly changed its tune. On Wednesday, Facebook shared in a blog post that conversations with academics and civil rights groups have led it to (finally) ban white nationalism, writing:
“Today we’re announcing a ban on praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism on Facebook and Instagram, which we’ll start enforcing next week. It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services.”
It’s important to note that Facebook previously excluded white nationalism and white separatism from its ban on white supremacy, as reported by The Associated Press.
This is a big move for the same company that actually let advertisers target users based on their interest in Nazis, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. It’s undoubtedly driven by the increased backlash Facebook has faced over these past few weeks.
For example, Facebook and other big tech companies were called upon by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson to testify before Congress regarding their responses to the Christchurch shooting.
Only yesterday, a French Muslim group announced it was suing Facebook and YouTube for “broadcasting a message with violent content abetting terrorism, or of a nature likely to seriously violate human dignity and liable to be seen by a minor”, as reported by the Agence France-Presse.
Getting Facebook to recognize — and publicly acknowledge — the white nationalist rhetoric stewing on its website has been a long battle, for civil rights advocates and community members alike. Unfortunately, Facebook isn’t the only social media platform struggling with it. But, advocates are hoping that Facebook’s decision will pressure other companies to act.
Rashad Robison, president of advocacy group Color of Change, said, according to NBC News, “Facebook’s update should move Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon to act urgently to stem the growth of white nationalist ideologies, which find space on platforms to spread violent ideas and rhetoric that inspired the tragic events witnessed in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and now Christchurch.”
In addition to its ban, Facebook said any people searching terms “associated with white supremacy” will be redirected to Life After Hate, an organization that provides crisis intervention and support.
“Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to game our systems to spread hate,” Facebook said. “Our challenge is to stay ahead by continuing to improve our technologies, evolve our policies and work with experts who can bolster our own efforts.”