After a long month and an even longer week for Facebook, the social network is taking publicity-friendly steps to scrub hateful views from its platform.
Two pages associated with the prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer were removed on Friday. Both the National Policy Institute, an organization that favors a white ethnostate, and Altright.com, Spencer’s online magazine, no longer have a home on Facebook.
The removals came after Vice News reached out to the site to find out why those two pages were still active. The query was prompted after Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg insisted during his Congressional testimony that “we do not allow hate groups on Facebook.”
A third group flagged by Vice, The Nationalist Initiative, was also removed. It’s not clear how many followers that third page had, but the two connected to Spencer combined for around 15,000 followers.
The move comes exactly one month after Facebook banned Britain First, the far-right, anti-Islamic group whose hateful and misleading tweets were once retweeted by Donald Trump.
Earlier in the week, Zuckerberg told Congress: “We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall. So if there’s a group that, their primary purpose or a large part of what they do is spreading hate, we will ban them from the platform overall.”
The pledge was met with skepticism in various corners of the world. In one example, a group of civil liberty organizations in Myanmar penned an open letter to Zuckerberg, decrying “the inadequate response of the Facebook team” to stamping out hate speech.
That skepticism isn’t without merit. Spencer is a widely known figure on the internet because of his toxic, xenophobic views, but it took a media organization asking “Why?” for any action to be taken.
This isn’t difficult to research, either. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy nonprofit, maintains a running list of active hate groups in the United States. As of this writing, 62 groups are listed; we won’t link to them here, but a quick Google search reveals that many also appear on Facebook even now.
Make no mistake: It’s great to see Facebook stepping up and shutting down the influence of problematic figures like Spencer and Britain First. But there are plenty of groups out there that exist and are known, but haven’t made headlines yet.
Why does it take a major news event, or a query from a media organization, for Facebook to take action? Wouldn’t it be more of a fix to root these problem groups out before they build a platform for themselves?