Facebook moves to ban white nationalist hate speech after New Zealand mosque attack

The Facebook logo on a laptop Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Facebook has pledged to ban white nationalist content after the New Zealand mosque attack.

Fifty people were shot at two mosques in Christchurch in the nation's deadliest attack on March 15.

Since the massacre and pressure from civil rights groups, the social network has broadened its definition of hate speech.

White supremacy has long been banned by the company, but it had held back from restricting white nationalism and separatism in the same way because of “broader concepts” such as American pride and Basque separatism, Facebook explained.

Tributes hang on the fence outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Credit: AP

But after conversations with civil rights groups and academics, Facebook has decided that it can no longer separate the two from white supremacy and found overlaps in its own review of hate figures and organisations.

“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 social network said in a blog post.

The ban will come into force from next week, covering all forms of praise, support and representation for both ideologies, across Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook has been criticised for its handling of hate speech. Credit: PA

Facebook, which has been criticised for its handling of hate speech, admitted that it needs to act better and faster in response to the problem.

The firm has largely relied on machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect offending material.

Anyone searching terms associated with white supremacy will now be directed to advice from Life After Hate, a non-profit organisation that aims to help people leave hate groups.

“Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to game our systems to spread hate,” Facebook said.

“Our challenge is to stay ahead by continuing to improve our technologies, evolve our policies and work with experts who can bolster our own efforts.”

American civil rights advocacy organisation Color of Change said that it hoped Facebook’s actions would encourage others such as Twitter, YouTube and Amazon to do more to tackle the growth of white nationalist ideologies, which it says inspired the attacks in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and most recently Christchurch.

“For years, we’ve been pressuring Facebook to address the growing dangers of white nationalism and separatism,” it tweeted.

“We’re glad Facebook is treating these two ideologies the same as white supremacy by banning this type of content from their platforms.”