Facebook unveiled their second Civil Rights Audit report this last weekend, which has the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, talking on handling white supremacist content on the social media platform. Until earlier in the year, Facebook only considered the term “white supremacy” as a breach of their hate speech policy, meaning terms such as “white nationalism” or “white separatism” were still permitted on the site. In accordance with their mission to improve civil rights on their platform, Facebook appointed external auditors to oversee these objectives, a task that was impeded by the platform’s narrow administration of its own rules.
“Facebook’s current white nationalism policy is too narrow, because it prohibits only explicit praise, support, or representation of the terms ‘white nationalism’ or ‘white separatism'”, according to the Audit report. “The narrow scope of the policy leaves up content that expressly espouses white nationalist ideology without using the term ‘white nationalist’. As a result, content that would cause the same harm is permitted to remain on the platform.”
Although, in March of this year, Facebook altered their rules to additionally bar the explicit promotion, encouragement, or representation of both of these ideologies as well, which applies to the main Facebook platform and Instagram.
In reference to the supposed narrow extent of the hate speech policy, Sandberg says, “We’re addressing this by identifying hate slogans and symbols connected to white nationalism and white separatism to better enforce our policy. We also recently updated our policies so Facebook isn’t used to organize events that intimidate or harass people based on their race, religion, or other parts of their identity. We now ban posts from people who intend to bring weapons anywhere to intimidate or harass others, or who encourage people to do the same. Civil rights leaders first flagged this trend to us, and it’s exactly the type of content our policies are meant to protect against.”