Facebook is banning statements of support for white nationalism and separatism on its platforms, according to an announcement published Wednesday.
The social-media giant said users searching for terms tied to white supremacy will see a referral to Life After Hate, an organization devoted to helping people leave violent extremism.
“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,” Facebook said in its statement. The changes go into effect next week.
Facebook and other social-media companies have recently come under fire from the federal government for not doing enough to prevent the spread of hate speech and disinformation on their platforms. Last week, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould suggested measures may be put in place ahead of the federal election to limit that kind of content.
“Social-media platforms have for a long time said, ‘you can’t regulate us, we’re higher than regulation,’” Ms. Gould said in an interview with The Globe. "We are looking broadly across the world to see what others are doing, and thinking about how that would apply in the Canadian context.”
For its part, Facebook said it welcomed a conversation on these issues. “We’re always open to talking to the government and hearing what they have to say,” said Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada. “We all want the same outcome, which is a free and fair election.”
“I think Facebook is actively trying to demonstrate that they’re doing more and that they’re responding to our demands,” Ms. Gould said. “But again, I think we’re lacking with regards to the transparency that those measures are being applied in full.”
“Twitter is doing much less,” Ms. Gould added. A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment.
Ms. Gould’s statement is the latest signal from the office charged with guarding the integrity of Canada’s democratic processes that online platforms must step up their moderation efforts and transparency.
Speaking at a House of Commons ethics committee meeting in February, Ms. Gould warned the government may have to require social media to act in cases where hate speech isn’t removed from their platforms.
While Ms. Gould did not reveal what those measures would be, she did say her office was looking at other examples around the world. She pointed to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, social-media legislation coming out of the United States and the EU’s code of practice of disinformation. Facebook, Twitter and Google have all signed on to the code of practice voluntarily ahead of the EU’s election.
“I have impressed upon them that this isn’t something that we’re just going to wait around for,” Ms. Gould said. “We’re expecting a very serious response and [for them] to take this seriously.”