Facebook introduces policy to ban white nationalist and separatist content

Users that search for white supremacist, nationalist, or separatist content will reportedly be directed to sources that help people leave behind hate groups

Facebook will no longer allow content that praises, supports, or represents white nationalism and separatism on its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, it said on Tuesday.

In its announcement, Facebook said that hateful content about race, ethnicity, and religion was already prohibited -- including white supremacist content -- but it previously believed that white nationalist and separatist content did not fall under these categories of inappropriate content.

Facebook's rationale was that it believed white nationalism and separatism were tied to "broader concepts of nationalism and separatism -- things like American pride and Basque separatism".

The new policy, which comes into effect next week, highlights the malleable nature of the company's policies, as Facebook's training documents for moderators, obtained last year by Vice's Motherboard, revealed that comments such as "White nationalism is the only way", "I am a proud white nationalist", and "White separatism is the perfect solution to America's problems" were examples of allowable content for its social media platforms.

The training document also made explicit distinctions between white supremacist and white nationalist/separatist content, citing various Wikipedia sources.

With the implementation of the new policy however, which reportedly involved consultations with experts on race relations about the topic, Facebook will change its stance towards distinguishing between white supremacy, nationalism, and separatism.

"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," Facebook said.

According to Motherboard, phrases such as "I am a proud white nationalist" and "Immigration is tearing this country apart; white separatism is the only answer" will now be banned, but content that includes implicit and coded white nationalism may not be banned immediately.

In addition, users that search for white supremacist, nationalist, or separatist content on Facebook's social media platforms will be directed to sources that help people leave behind hate groups, Facebook said.

The decision to ban white nationalist and separatist content comes a fortnight after the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, which had been live-streamed on Facebook. 

Following the terrorist attack, Facebook published figures on the views and shares of the live-streamed footage, revealing that the video was allowed to be re-uploaded over 300,000 times.

In response to Facebook allowing the terrorist attack to be streamed, the Australian government has begun drafting new laws that criminally penalise social media platforms if they allow videos containing serious offences to be streamed. The Australian government met with social media companies to discuss other viable alternatives, but viewed their arguments against the need for new laws to be "thoroughly underwhelming".

"It is impossible to understate the consequence and significance of that particular issue of a social media platform being used by a terrorist perpetrator to spread terror, to spread violence, spread their crazed and fanatical message," Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said on Tuesday.

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