Opinion | I’m not applauding Facebook for banning Nazis

Olivia Harden, features editor

Facebook should’ve freed us from the Nazis a long time ago, and they are not to get any applause from me for making a basic move that should’ve been seen as … common sense. The website’s policies already prohibited white supremacy – but left a loophole allowing for content upholding white nationalism and separatism. On March 27, the social media giant announced it had banned both.

Man, what took you so long? In the 15 years that Facebook has been a platform, it has slowly removed hate speech and white supremacy from its platform, but banning a specific group of people is a much clearer statement, and I am loving it.

While it may seem easy to say hate speech is bad and move on, the issue at hand is more complex. You’re probably thinking, “But wait! What about free speech?” So for all my right-leaning fans out there, this one’s for you. Yes, the U.S. Constitution grants free speech to all of its citizens.

This means that in the United States you are allowed to say whatever you want, including hate speech, but finding the line between protected speech and speech that incites violence is more difficult than you may think, even at the federal level. As a result, Facebook, as a private company, has every right to remove hateful rhetoric its platform.

We’re seeing old tweets and videos of someone making a hateful comment or using a racial or homophobic slur will surface, and two or three days later, that person might be fired from his or her job. According to The New York Times in October 2018, a white woman blocked her black neighbor from entering their apartment complex. The victim of the harassment posted the photos on Twitter, and shortly after the photos went viral, the woman was fired from her real estate position. In the age of the internet, whatever you put on the web and out into the world is stuck with you forever. The type of content users post is still controlled by social media sites’ terms of services – and so it’s within Facebook’s control to keep prejudice off our timelines.

Facebook is among at least a dozen or so major websites that have taken steps to remove content that promotes white supremacy. And it’s a step in the right direction, especially after the influence Facebook had on the 2016 election. Facebook has also recently introduced measures to prevent the spread of fake news, which can influence millions of users.

The social media giant came under immense scrutiny after it failed to prevent the spread of false information during the 2016 U.S. elections, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified to the U.S. Senate.

The power of untruths is haunting, and if we allow white supremacists to stay on such an influential platform, it could be devastating. There should be no hesitation to remove content that threatens someone’s existence, and Nazis are no exception.