Facebook bans white nationalism, white separatism on its platforms

The policy changes will start next week, and it will apply to the tech group’s Facebook and Instagram, the company said.

Facebook has banned praise, support and representations of white nationalism and white separatism on its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, the firm announced on Wednesday. The press release comes after the gruesome mass killings of 50 people in New Zealand speculated to have been caused by white supremacism.

Alleged gunman Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, had used two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm in a mass shooting at two Muslim mosques on March 15. After the terrorist shooting, New Zealand said its gun laws will undergo reforms.

Social media platforms have been under pressure from civil rights groups on the relaxed policing on extremist views - including white supremacist and neo-Nazi content - on their platforms. Abusive posts and fake news are also other forms of content that have ruffled the feathers of regulators in recent years.

On Wednesday, Facebook said it has long banned white supremacy as it was considered under its policy as a hateful treatment of people, but it did not include expressions of ‘white nationalism’ or ‘white separatism’ content as those words may relate to broader concepts of personal identity.

‘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 organised hate groups,’ the company said.

Facebook said it has ramped up its content monitoring efforts and taken down event pages that are used to promote and organize rallies by while supremacist groups.

The policy changes will start next week, and it will apply to the tech group’s Facebook and Instagram, the company said.

New Zealand applauds Facebook’s efforts to remove hate

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern had in her address to the media days after the mass shooting pointed out that the live video of the shooting was shared 1.5 million times on social media and called for social media platforms to ‘demonstrate responsibility’.

Tarrant’s video was copied and circulated by users on Facebook. According to Facebook, it has removed 1.5 million videos of the attack in the first 24 hours, the company said in a tweet last week.

Responding to the announcement from Facebook on Wednesday, prime minister Ardern said she was pleased that ‘they are including it’, and that the company has 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 stressed.

‘There are lessons to be learnt here in Christchurch and we don't want anyone to have to learn those lesson over again,’ Ms Ardern said.

The video posted by the terrorist reignited the discussion on whether social media platforms were doing enough to catch hate-filled, racial-slurred content, amid calls for tighter regulation from various governments.

Beyond social issues, Facebook’s platforms faced technical glitches

Facebook suffered some technical glitches two weeks ago, where users could not log in or post Facebook posts on the social media platform.

The glitch could also be experienced from the social media giant’s other products, such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook said the problem was not due to a DDoS attack, or a distributed denial-of-service attack, which is a cyber-attack where a hacker disrupts the services of the host by making the network unavailable to its users.

Facebook’s shares closed lower on Wednesday, down by 1.08% or US$1.81, at US$165.87.

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