Following the Christchurch mosque massacre last month, Independent newspaper alleged that Facebook is “allowing Neo-Nazi groups to stay on Facebook because they do not violate ‘community standards.’” Some may find this accusation particularly relevant since recent events have highlighted social media’s role in providing a venue for the radicalisation of far-right nationalist groups. In fact, the individual who carried out the mosque shooting used Facebook’s live function to publicise his attack.
Independent reported that members had flagged pages operated by white supremacist organisations. However, the social media giant did not remove the material. Instead, the company told those who had reported the pages to simply unfollow them if they felt offended. This response does not seem to fit Facebook’s community standards, which states that the site does not tolerate hate speech. “We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation . . .,” the standards say.
Facebook has in fact removed a large volume of hateful material. For instance, over a six-month period in 2018, the site removed 12.4 million pieces of content affiliated with terrorists. Ninety-nine percent of this material was automatically flagged as a threat. Despite this action, Facebook allegedly refused to delete a page used by Combat 18’s Greek faction. The page uses a cover photo that shows a man performing a Nazi salute in front of a wall sprayed with a swastika.
After the Christchurch mosque massacre, a Facebook spokesperson emphasised the company’s intent to “combat hate speech of all kinds on our platform. Our Community Standards prohibit terrorist and hate groups of all kinds. This includes more than 200 white supremacist organisations globally, whose content we are removing through proactive detection technology.” But, as recent events have shown, this statement sounds more like “look what we say, not what we do,” in the words of a Forbes journalist.