Last week, Facebook banned white nationalism and white separatism from its platform. This came after a Motherboard investigation based on leaked documents found that Facebook did not allow white supremacist content on the world’s biggest social network but did permit the other ideologies. Facebook changed this stance after a civil rights backlash, and the switch also applies to Instagram.
In the wake of that significant policy change, Motherboard asked Twitter and YouTube, both platforms with a white nationalism problem, if they would now ban content with phrases no longer allowed on Facebook, such as “I am a proud white nationalist.”
Neither company provided a definitive answer.
Keegan Hankes, a research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Intelligence Project, told Motherboard in a phone call Tuesday “I think there is absolutely a need for other platforms to adopt similar policies” to Facebook. “Both YouTube and Twitter have been amongst the worst at getting this content dealt with on their platforms,” Hankes added.
Another phrase Motherboard asked Twitter and YouTube about was "Immigration is tearing this country apart; white separatism is the only answer." During a phone call last week, Ulrick Casseus, a subject matter expert on hate groups on Facebook’s policy team, said both this phrase and the representation of being a white nationalist are banned under Facebook’s new policy. Neither YouTube or Twitter said whether this second phrase would violate their policies.
Facebook changed its policy after an overwhelming number of experts it spoke to said that white nationalism and white separatism are tied closely to organized hate. From here, Facebook came to the conclusion that white nationalism and white separatism are “inherently hateful,” the company previously told Motherboard.
YouTube pointed Motherboard to its existing policies around calls for violence, hate speech, threats, and harassment. None of those appear to deal with content that more simply but explicitly says “I am a proud white nationalist.” On the side of enforcement, this week Motherboard found YouTube is still hosting a slew of neo-Nazi content.
When asked specifically about the “I am a proud white nationalist” phrase, YouTube did not respond.
Twitter also pointed to its own existing policies, including its stance on extremism. The company highlighted “You also may not affiliate with organizations that—whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform—use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.” In its policy on hateful conduct, the company highlighted several sections, including “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin.”
But neither of those, or any of the other sections the company highlighted, seem to deal with the explicit representation of being an individual, proud white nationalist. When asked if the phrase “I am a proud white nationalist” would violate Twitter’s current policies, the company said it had nothing further to share, and told Motherboard it has banned many groups that has expressed these views and that it does not allow imagery related to these entities.
Hankes added the SPLC does have a relationship with YouTube, but with Twitter not nearly as much.
“They’ve been very, very stubborn and basically unwilling to ban people that are outright white supremacists from their platform,” he added. When they do ban people, they’re happy to play a game of whack-a-mole, instead of having a systematic approach, he added.
“They’re still basically at square one for the most part,” Hankes said.
Listen to CYBER, Motherboard’s new weekly podcast about hacking and cybersecurity.