Facebook is banning white nationalism and white separatism from its platforms, eliminating the controversial distinction it had historically drawn between those ideologies and white supremacy.
“It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services,” the company said in a March 27 blog post announcing the policy.
Facebook has always prohibited white supremacy as an example of “hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, or religion,” the company explained. It did not extend this logic to white nationalism and separatism because it saw them as examples of the broader concepts of nationalism and separatism (like the movement in Spain’s Basque country).
Last year, this distinction was laid bare in training documents for Facebook content moderators that leaked to Motherboard. Experts and anti-hate groups critical of the policy pointed out that these ideologies overlap, and that the distinction was a technicality. More recently, Facebook came under fire for its slow response to the deadly Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shooting, whose perpetrator, a white supremacist, livestreamed the attack on the platform.
Facebook said that over the past three months it has been talking with “members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world,” and who confirmed that white nationalism and separatism could not be treated separately from white supremacy and hate groups. “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,” the post reads.
Racial justice advocacy group Color of Change praised the move. “Facebook’s update should move Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon to act urgently to stem the growth of white nationalist ideologies, which find space on platforms to spread the violent ideas and rhetoric that inspired the tragic attacks witnessed in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and now Christchurch,” said in a statement its president Rashad Robinson.
The platform will connect people searching for terms associated with white supremacy with the group Life After Hate, which is run by former extremists and helps people leave hate groups.