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Facebook bans ‘white nationalism and white separatism’

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in 2015. (Facebook/Released)
March 27, 2019
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Facebook has just announced a ban on white nationalism that will go into effect next week.

The ban will include “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism on Facebook and Instagram,” according to a Facebook press release on Wednesday.

“It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services,” Facebook said, adding that users who attempt to post such content will be directed to an organization who helps people leave 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. 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,” Facebook said.

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“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 statement continued.

The company stated that they discovered in a review of “hate figures and organizations” as described in their policy, white nationalism, separatism, and white supremacy all overlapped.

“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 explained.

The company also vowed to improve their efforts in “finding and removing hate” faster, citing their improved artificial intelligence that has allowed them to identify terrorist communication.

The same tool is helping them identify hate groups and white supremacists, the company says.

If users so much as search for “terms associated with white supremacy,” they will be directed to Life After Hate, “an organization founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach.”

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The policy shift was spurred by a 2018 investigation from Vice’s Motherboard, which called out Facebook for permitting “white nationalism” and “white separatism” on the platform, despite banning “white supremacy,” Motherboard reported.

As a result, civil rights groups, and historians and experts on cultural relations decried Facebook, claiming that supremacy, nationalism and separatism espoused the same ideologies.

“We’ve had conversations with more than 20 members of civil society, academics, in some cases these were civil rights organizations, experts in race relations from around the world,” Brian Fishman, policy director of counterterrorism at Facebook, told Motherboard.

“We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can’t make a meaningful distinction between them. And that’s because the language and the rhetoric that is used and the ideology that it represents overlaps to a degree that it is not a meaningful distinction,” he added.

Facebook said it’s prepared to improve technologies and policies to strengthen their ability to remove hate.

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