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Mere days after Mark Zuckerberg faced questions by Senators and Congressmen regarding Facebook’s responsibility of stringent quality control on the social media platform, the company has removed two pages associated with white nationalist Richard Spencer. You may recall Zuckerberg testifying that his company does “not allow hate groups” to spread their ideology on his site. According to Vice, Spencer coined the term “alt-right” and runs the National Policy Institute—a think-thank eager to establish a white “ethnostate.” That certainly seems to fall in line with hate speech.
Vice reports that two Facebook pages associated with Spencer—one with 4,000 followers and another with 10,000—have both been kicked off the site. While Zuckerberg’s claims that one of Facebook’s big concerns is removing hate groups from the site seems apt here, there are reportedly many other pages which the Southern Poverty Law Center would classify as “hate groups” still running on the social-media site.
Admittedly, trying to remove all of them in one fell swoop accurately is like trying to empty the ocean with a bucket—but therein lies the problem. What methods will be used in the future to more effectively clean up Facebook’s user-base? According to Vice, Facebook claims they filter out hate groups using manual, human observation in addition to algorithms that identify hate speech. Naturally, these algorithms are imperfect, and like any technology in demand, will be continuously refined. When questioned by Congress in regards to Facebook being used as a communication tool for genocide in Myanmar, Zuckerberg said more human moderators would be added to the filtration process in countries this would apply to.
“They told us they’re going to take it more seriously, and we’ve been sending them information about those groups,” said Heidi Beirich, deputy director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “And yet they’re still there.” One of these pages, The Nationalist Initiative—another one of Spencer’s—mutated from a previous incarnation called Traditionalist Workers Party. This hate group actively participated in 2017’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
Of course, hate groups and their Facebook pages still exist, and will likely continue to for a while. It’s just too grand of a problem to be solved easily, with sophisticated programming likely being the key to this issue. How long that will take, and what that will do Facebook as a company—not everyone is in favor of censorship, after all—remains to be seen. “There is no universally accepted answer for when something crosses the line,” wrote Facebook executive Richard Allan. What we can all agree on, is that a page calling for a white “ethnostate” is an embarrassment to us as a species—and that might be a good start.