Facebook has announced that it will actively ban neo-Nazi groups operating on the platform after receiving criticism earlier this week.
The social media giant has said that it will ban groups promoting white nationalist and separatist posts on Facebook and Instagram from next week, explaining that these posts were “deeply linked to organized hate groups”.
Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion — and that has always included white supremacy.
It comes after a Counter Extremism Project report, seen by the Independent, revealed that pages operated by international white supremacist organisations – including the far right Combat 18, the Misanthropic Division and the British Movement – were not removed by Facebook.
These pages often featured glorified images of Adolf Hitler and swastikas and were raunch with homophobic and racist abuse.
When researchers filed a report against the hateful content, the posts were not removed and they were told to “unfollow” the pages they found to be offensive.
Facebook’s community standards, which outline hate speech in a similar capacity to the Equality Act 2010, have been used to actively remove hateful content – with 2.5 million posts deleted in the first quarter of 2018.
However, a loophole meant that white supremacist posts were surviving on the site and many critics felt that the company was not doing enough to remove it – an issue that soared after the Christchurch shooter live streamed his attack on Facebook.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to game our systems to spread hate. Our challenge is to stay ahead.
In a statement, the company explained that the initial hesitation to lay down a blanket bank on nationalist groups came because they were thinking about the “broader concepts” of nationalism.
“Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion — and that has always included white supremacy.
“We didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and white 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,” it read.
The company insists that users will still be able to celebrate their “ethnic heritage” online, but hateful content “will not be tolerated”.
Tech Against Hate
Facebook has committed itself to improve both technology and policy to stay one step ahead of hate groups, starting with a goal to decrease the amount of time it takes for these types of posts to be removed.
It will also be directing users who actively search for content related to white supremacy to Life After Hate, a charity formed by ex-violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach to help people leave hate groups.
“Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to game our systems to spread hate. Our challenge is to stay ahead,” they added.