Facebook has announced this morning that starting next week they will be banning all “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” from both Facebook and Instagram. The ban marks the most significant attempt Facebook has made to curb the type of violent rhetoric that has plagued the site in recent years and comes just two weeks after a deadly mass shooting in New Zealand was live streamed on the platform.
Facebook’s press release titled “Standing Against Hate” read in part:
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 organized hate groups.
In their announcement Facebook made mention of their pre-existing policies against hateful rhetoric but also admitted to a lack of action against some fringe groups in the past, adding:
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… Going forward, while people will still be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, we will not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and separatism.
Changes will also be made in regards to search results for white nationalist and white supremacist content, instead redirecting users to a page that is managed by Life After Hate, a support group founded by former violent extremists that is dedicated to showing white nationalists a different point of view. Facebook will also be making improvements to the AI responsible for finding and removing white nationalist content, though the company admitted to that system’s previous shortcomings.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018 was the fourth year straight that the number of hate groups rose in the United States with White Nationalist groups seeing a 50% increase over the last year, in part due to the type of communities that Facebook previously gave a platform to. The Anti-Defamation League reported that in 2018 right-wing extremists were linked to 50 extremist-related murders in the United States.