Until now, Facebook said it had considered nationalism and separatism tamer issues than white supremacy, which it has "long prohibited"

By Adam Carlson
March 27, 2019 05:00 PM
Credit: Getty

On Wednesday Facebook announced that as of next week “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” will be banned on both Facebook and Instagram, the company’s flagship social media platforms which are collectively used by billions of people.

“It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services,” Facebook said in a news release about the ban.

Until now, Facebook said it had considered nationalism and separatism tamer issues than white supremacy, which it has “long prohibited.”

“But 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,” the company stated in its release.

“Going forward,” the release continued, “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.”

Facebook also announced it would “start connecting people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to resources focused on helping people leave behind hate groups.”

Specifically users will be pointed toward Life After Hate, “an organization founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach,” according to the Facebook release.

Facebook further said Wednesday it was continuing to improve how it was “finding and removing hate from our platforms.”

“Over the past few years we have improved our ability to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to find material from terrorist groups,” the company stated. “Last fall, we started using similar tools to extend our efforts to a range of hate groups globally, including white supremacists. We’re making progress, but we know we have a lot more work to do.”

The company has previously faced criticism for the lines it drew between what is acceptable if provocative and what is unacceptable, such as racist content. Its difficulties screening objectionable material made headlines when a mass shooter uploaded video of the attack on two New Zealand mosques earlier this month.

As leading technology companies such as Facebook and Google have continued to hold significant sway over the time and attention of daily internet users, their practices have come under greater and greater scrutiny — including the threat of increased government regulation.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is one of the most prominent politicians seeking to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, has called for the breakup of Amazon, Facebook and Google.

The company’s white nationalist ban was applauded by some observers, according to the New York Times.

Still, cautioned one civil rights attorney, “We need to know how Facebook will define white nationalist and white separatist content.”

“For example, will it include expressions of anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ sentiment — all underlying foundations of white nationalism?” Madihha Ahussain told the Times. “Further, if the policy lacks robust, informed and assertive enforcement, it will continue to leave vulnerable communities at the mercy of hate groups.”