White supremacy has been on the rise in mainstream culture in recent months and years—especially since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump. And white nationalists, now emboldened to speak their minds, have harnessed the power of social media to spread their heinous perspectives. However, Facebook and Instagram are (finally) doing something about it.
Although Facebook banned the term “white supremacy” on their site in 2018 (at least in terms of groups and orgs), “white nationalism” and “white separatism” were still permitted—meaning hate groups could still flourish as long as they avoided that one specific term. However, in a March 27th blogpost, Facebook—which also owns Instagram—took a definitive stand.
The company also stated it will no longer “tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and white separatism,” and they plan to use their machine learning program to target hateful speech used on the platform. According to the post, Facebook will also work with community members “who search for terms associated with white supremacy” and connect them to “resources focused on helping people leave behind hate groups,” such as Life After Hate. This new set of policies will be instated next week.
While this is definitely an important step in the right direction, the reality is that targeting hate groups on social media platforms is hard—especially because many adapt by using coded language and terminology in order to evade easy recognition. In reality, this will be a gradual process and won’t erase all hate groups on Facebook and Instagram overnight. But it’s a (long overdue) start.