The new policy is a significant change from the company’s old policies on white separatism and white nationalism. In internal moderation training documents obtained and published by Motherboard last year, Facebook argued that white nationalism “doesn’t seem to be always associated with racism (at least not explicitly).”That article elicited widespread criticism from civil rights, Black history, and extremism experts, who stressed that “white nationalism” and “white separatism” are often simply fronts for white supremacy.“I do think it’s a step forward, and a direct result of pressure being placed on it [Facebook],” Rashad Robinson, president of campaign group Color Of Change, told Motherboard in a phone call.
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“When you have a broad range of people you engage with, you’re going to get a range of ideas and beliefs,” Ulrick Casseus, a subject matter expert on hate groups on Facebook’s policy team, told us. “There were a few people who […] did not agree that white nationalism and white separatism were inherently hateful.”But Facebook said that the overwhelming majority of experts it spoke to believed that white nationalism and white separatism are tied closely to organized hate, and that all experts it spoke to believe that white nationalism expressed online has led to real-world harm. After speaking to these experts, Facebook decided that white nationalism and white separatism are “inherently hateful.”
"We saw that was becoming more of a thing, where they would try to normalize what they were doing by saying ‘I’m not racist, I’m a nationalist’, and try to make that distinction"
Facebook banning white nationalism and separatism has been a long time coming, and the experts Motherboard spoke to believe that Facebook was too slow to move. Motherboard first published documents showing Facebook’s problematic distinction between supremacy and nationalism in May last year; the Lawyer’s Committee wrote a critical letter to Facebook in September. Between then and now, Facebook’s old policy has remained in place.“It’s definitely a positive change, but you have to look at it in context, which is that this is something they should have been doing from the get-go,” Brody told Motherboard. “How much credit do you get for doing the thing you were supposed to do in the first place?”“It’s ridiculous," Hankes added. "The fact that it’s taken this long after Charlottesville, for instance, and then this latest tragedy to come to the position that, of course, white nationalism, white separatism are euphemisms for white supremacy.” He said that multiple groups have been lobbying Facebook around this issue, and have been frustrated with the slow response.“The only time you seem to be able to get a serious response out of these people is when there’s a tragedy,” he added.Motherboard raised this criticism to Fishman: If Facebook now realizes that the common academic view is that there is no meaningful distinction between white supremacy and white nationalism, why wasn’t that its view all along?“I would say that we think we’ve got it right now,” he said.Update: This story has been updated to include that the change will apply to both Facebook and Instagram.
"It’s definitely a positive change, but you have to look at it in context, which is that this is something they should have been doing from the get-go"