Facebook has said it will ban “praise, support and representation” of white nationalism and separatism on the platform and its sister app Instagram from next week, a move that comes days after a gun attack on two mosques in New Zealand killed 50 people.
The social media company said in a blog post on Wednesday that it had made the decision after three months of conversations with academics and civil groups, adding that it would also redirect people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to resources “focused on helping people leave behind hate groups”.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were sharply criticised earlier this month, after a gunman with white nationalist views livestreamed graphic footage of the Christchurch mosque shootings. This video was copied and uploaded across multiple social media platforms even when the original had been taken down from Facebook.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, called for the platforms to take more responsibility for the extremist material shared on their sites following the attack.
She welcomed the decision by Facebook on Thursday but said it did not go far enough, and called for a co-ordinated global response to the use of social media platforms by violent extremists.
“I think when you look at the community standards of Facebook, which of course already state they do not allow hate speech, you would probably fairly assume that some of what they have announced may well have already been included,” she told reporters. “I think there is more work to do.”
Australia has threatened to introduce tough criminal penalties — including prison sentences for executives — on social media companies that fail to ensure their products are safe and prevent the live streaming of terror attacks.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said this week his government is drafting laws aimed at preventing social media platforms from being “weaponised” with terror content.
A meeting between government officials and the companies on Wednesday broke up without any indication that the government would back away from legislating.
Hate speech in the form of white supremacy is already banned from Facebook, the company said on Wednesday.
But it added: “We didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and separatism because we were thinking about broader concepts of nationalism and separatism — things like American pride and Basque separatism.”
Facebook said that it was now clear that the concepts were linked to organised hate groups and could not be viewed separately from white supremacy. The company added that it had expanded its use of machine learning and artificial intelligence from monitoring for terrorist material, to include watching for hate groups, including white supremacists.
Last week, Facebook said that within the first 24 hours of the New Zealand mosque attacks, the company had taken down more than 1.2m copies of the livestreamed video as they were being uploaded, and 300,000 copies after they had been posted. The livestream was viewed 4,000 times before it was removed from Facebook.
The company has been ramping up its efforts to tackle hate speech, particularly after it came under intense criticism last year for failing to prevent inflammatory online attacks against minority Muslims in Myanmar.