Facebook Finally Bans White Nationalism and White Separatism

American racists and white nationalists at Charlottsville. (Photo: Reuters)

Facebook has reacted to painful criticism it hasn't done nearly enough to combat global racism by banning the praise, support, and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on its social media platform. Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary, has also followed suit.

Belatedly, Facebook has hired more people for its content monitoring teams and taken down event pages that promote and organize rallies by white supremacist groups. Facebook also said it will start connecting people that search for terms associated with white supremacy to an organization called Life After Hate, which aims to help 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," said Facebook in a statement posted to its website.

Facebook's decision Wednesday drew muted approval from New Zealand, which has led calls for social media platforms to do more to stamp out racism. This, following the horrific March 15 shootings in Christchurch where an avowed Australian racist murdered 50 Muslims and wounded 50 other persons.

The suspect live-streamed 17 minutes of his murders on Facebook, which only took down the live stream after being alerted by New Zealand police.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is again calling on social media platforms to be accountable for what users post. She has criticized Facebook for not following its own hate-speech rules, thereby allowing racist rhetoric to thrive on its platform.

"Having said that, I'm pleased to see that they are including it, and that they have taken that step, but I still think that there is a conversation to be had with the international community about whether or not enough has been done," she said after receiving word of Facebook's ban on white nationalist content.

"There are lessons to be learned here in Christchurch and we don't want anyone to have to learn those lesson over again."

Civil rights groups have long said Facebook and other social media giants such as Twitter and Google continue to fail to confront racism and right-wing extremism. All three social media giants have long been asked to remove white supremacist and neo-Nazi content from their platforms, along with fake news and trolls or abusive posts.

They have resisted doing so out of fears of being criticized for violating freedom of speech.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, welcomed Facebook's decision but lamented that Facebook should have made the change sooner.

"This should have happened long ago," said Thompson. "For too long, Facebook has allowed hate speech -- and the violence that it can inspire -- to propagate on its platform. Since billions use its service, we must demand more from them."

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