Facebook has launched a new UK initiative to combat hate speech posted on the site, with the social network now training local organisations to help deal with online extremism following the terror attacks in Manchester and London.
The UK Online Civil Courage Initiative has partnered with Imams Online and the Jo Cox Foundation, named after the Labour MP terror attack victim who was murdered by a neo-Nazi in 2016, in order to help put an end to terrorist propaganda being shared on the site. The initiative has been set up in response to growing concerns regarding the social network’s lackadaisical approach to ridding its site of extremist views, with it having been placed unfavourably in the spotlight in the wake of recent terror attacks.
“The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester – like violence anywhere – are absolutely heartbreaking,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (via BBC).
“No-one should have to live in fear of terrorism – and we all have a part to play in stopping violent extremism from spreading. We know we have more to do – but through our platform, our partners and our community we will continue to learn to keep violence and extremism off Facebook.”
Facebook’s renewed focus upon tackling online hate speech is likely the result of increasing pressure from the UK government, with Prime Minister Theresa May having outlined plans to bring an end to “safe spaces” extremists use to communicate with one another online. Though May’s targets have largely been online services that utilise end-to-end encryption such as WhatsApp, Facebook has also been criticised for its failure to adequately respond to extremism and hate speech on its platform.
While end-to-end encryption is arguably impossible for the UK government to tackle, encouraging platforms such as Facebook to take more of a stand against extremist views shared by its users is much more manageable. As part of the initiative, Facebook is going to give “free advertising” for its non-profit partners to address extremism and terrorism, helping to make viewers more aware of such behaviour on the social network.