Facebook to ban white nationalism and separatism content

posted on April 1, 2019

By the Guardian |

Facebook will no longer allow content supporting white nationalism and white separatism, it said on Tuesday. The announcement comes nearly a year after the revelation that its policy against white supremacy and hate speech still let users call for the creation of white ethno-states or claim the US “should be a white-only nation”.

The policy change announced on Wednesday, which will go into effect next week, comes in the wake of a white supremacist terror attack on mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead, and as Facebook and other social media companies continue to grapple with the ways violent white supremacist groups are using their platforms for propaganda and recruitment.

The company suggested in a post announcing the change that it had originally seen white nationalism as an acceptable point of view, similar to American nationalism, or Basque separatism. Although Facebook’s policies have long prohibited certain hateful rhetoric against based on people’s race, ethnicity or religion, it had not believed that “white separatism” necessarily belonged in a prohibited category.

“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,” the company wrote in a post on Wednesday.

Facebook’s training documents for moderators, obtained last year by Vice News’ Motherboard, explained that content promoting organized hate groups and leaders were banned and should be removed, but that white nationalism and white separatism were explicitly permitted.

Phrases like “I am a proud white nationalist” and “The US should be a white-only nation” were cited as examples of acceptable viewpoints, even as “I am a white supremacist” was banned, Motherboard reported.

The documents argued that white nationalism “doesn’t seem to be always associated with racism (at least not explicitly)” and that white nationalists “carefully avoid the term supremacy because it has negative connotations”.

The slides repeatedly cited Wikipedia entries as sources for these conclusions.

After three months of consultation with academic experts in racist extremism, Facebook announced on Wednesday, it concluded that white nationalism “cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups.

“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,” Facebook wrote.

Searches for certain keywords associated with white nationalism will also now direct users to Life After Hate, an organization that helps people leave racist hate groups, Facebook said.

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