Facebook will soon ban the promotion of white separatism and nationalism. In the past, Facebook has openly allowed separatism content, which white supremacists and other nationalists have used as an umbrella to keep their hate speech online. Facebook has banned white supremacists in the past, but many of the accounts and a wide array of content associated with white supremacists and other nationalists, remain on the platform to this day.
Many civil rights groups have spoken out against Facebook over the past several years, pointing to the Facebook Groups and Nationalist pages that openly support, recruit, and share their messages online using Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Since Facebook openly protected separatism accounts from being banned, more and more hateful groups started using the term separatists or nationalists to share their message online. The updated policy hopes to curb hate speech and recruitment, by condoning those groups.
In a post on Facebook’s official Newsroom blog the company stated:
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.
The company tried to explain why separatism was excluded from bans 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.”
In the same online message to users, Facebook said this policy change had been in the works for the past three months. While that may be true, we should point out that this sudden turnaround on nationalists and separatists came two weeks after the deadly shooting at the New Zealand mosques that killed 50 people. That entire event was broadcast on Facebook.
While any steps toward banning hate speech online are positive, many will see these new changes as the bare minimum that the company should be doing, or should have been doing over the last decade.
To end on a positive note, Facebook will redirect users on the platform who search for terms associated with white supremacy on Facebook to “Life After Hate.” That group was founded by former members of hate groups, who are actively trying to help others in danger of joining far-right extremism.
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