- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Facebook on Wednesday said it will ban “praise, support and representation” of white nationalism and white separatism as part of new rules taking effect next week across the social network and Instagram.

The internet giant confirmed the policy change in a blog post published after Motherboard first reported that Facebook is prohibiting the content, which had been previously permitted on the platforms despite a narrower ban on white supremacy.

“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,” said Facebook.

Brian Fishman, Facebook’s policy director of counterterrorism, said the decision was reached Tuesday following discussions with roughly three dozen employees, including COO Sheryl Sandberg, among others, Motherboard reported.

“We’ve had conversations with more than 20 members of civil society, academics, in some cases these were civil rights organizations, experts in race relations from around the world,” Mr. Fishman told the website.

“We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can’t make a meaningful distinction between them. And that’s because the language and the rhetoric that is used and the ideology that it represents overlaps to a degree that it is not a meaningful distinction.”

Facebook referred to Wednesday’s blog post when reached for comment.

Internet companies including Facebook previously took action toward white supremacists following the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, purging related social media accounts and pages in the aftermath of the event culminating in a participant murdering a counterprotester.

Nearly two years later, Silicon Valley has faced renewed pressure to tackle far-right extremism following the recent armed rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. A self-described ethno-nationalist took credit for mass shooting in a manifesto circulated online before the massacre, detailing his admittedly racist reasoning for murdering dozens of Muslims in a document rife with white nationalist rhetoric and ideologies. Video and audio of the rampage was livestreamed on Facebook, meanwhile, sending social media companies scrambling in the mass shooting’s aftermath to remove both the manifesto and video footage.

New Zealand has since classified both the manifesto and video footage as objectionable under federal law, effectively prohibiting the possession or distribution of either under penalty of imprisonment.

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