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Yesterday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg announced a new initiative to counter racist and xenophobic speech on social media. The Online Civil Courage Initiative(OCCI) is a partnership between Facebook, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. This initiative is supported by the German Ministry of Justice.

Facebook has already pledged $1.09 million in funding towards OCCI. The initiative will focus on three main areas: funding NGOs already fighting online extremism, developing best practices for NGOs as well as other online services, and research into the roots of extremism and hate speech. In announcing the initiative, Sandberg stated, “We have repeatedly emphasized that Facebook is no place for the dissemination of xenophobia, hate speech or calls for violence. With this new initiative, we are convinced to better understand and respond to the challenges of extremist speech on the internet.”

This initiative is separate from, but working towards a similar goal, as another recent action by Facebook. Earlier in the month, the company announced that it was hiring the services of German company Bertelsmann to monitor the site and delete hate speech. Bertelsmann has at least 100 employees working on this task, and Facebook has a few of their own employees working on it as well. “Through this investment, Facebook wants to make sure that reports about content that may violate our community standards can be dealt with even more effectively,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.

Both actions by Facebook may be the result of increasing pressure by German authorities to clamp down on hate speech. The German government has been trying, without much success, to put a lid on the anti-refugee sentiment that is on the rise in the country, and has only gotten worse after the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne. Last year many German politicians, including the German Minister of Justice, had called on Facebook to do more to combat hate speech on its platform. In November, prosecutors in Hamburg began an investigation to determine if Facebook was in compliance with the country’s hate speech laws.

Are Facebook’s new initiatives against hate speech a good thing? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • jin choung

    the devil’s in the details as always. sounds good in theory but who can you turn to when ANY negative take on refugees, no matter how valid or factual is censored as hate speech? censorship, like the law, is not a scalpel. it’s a sword… and all nuance will get swept away by it.

  • Ricardo Lima

    I sense a lot of arrogance and cowardice on this, not courage.

  • The Robot Devil

    But is it just hate speech in German facebook posts, or for all languages? And is it just racism, or will “kill all men” and “down with cis” style posts also suffer the censorship banhammer?

  • Time to bail out of Facebook.

    Never used the site myself. Never had any interest in it.

    But at any rate, we need to target Facebook’s stock market value. Kill their stock value, cite this “initiative” as the reason it’s tanking, this whole thing will get undone, fast.

  • BurntToShreds

    Because outsourcing content policing duties to a third party is a perfect way of showing that you actually care about curbing real abuse and hate on your platform, right? It has nothing to do with appeasing overzealous European legislators, right?

    Seriously though, the European Union and the governments that preside over the countries in it have been proving themselves to be massive enemies towards any sort of open Internet.

  • Corey Jason Cochran

    Of course not. They actually fit the liberal agenda, so they’re fine.

  • Valchrist

    Would discussing animal rights abuses or worker’s rights in China be considered xenophobia?

    Or talking about North Korean dictatorship?

    FGM rates in various countries such as Somalia?

    Is it xenophobic to talk about Israelis? Saudi Arabians? East Asians?

    or just refugees from a country you are at war with…?

  • Nicki Ashley

    1984 all over again. Are they using that book as a fucking instruction manual?

  • The Tallest Dwarf

    Yeah, because hate speech is certainly the big problem concerning Germany right now.
    Don’t kid yourselves, this is not about hate speech, it’s about dissent.
    When a thousand immigrants assaulted over a hundred german women on New Year’s, the minister for justice’s reaction was “This is a bad thing, because it will play into the hands of right-wing groups.” Not because private citizens were assaulted on a grand scale. No, because the opposition scored points by telling the truth, when our government and state-funded media were denying that there was a problem.
    (Edit: Obviously the right wing talks a lot of stupid stuff, too. I’m not endorsing any of these people. But this disaster has been a penalty kick without a keeper for them, so they took it.)

    They don’t give a rat’s ass about their citizens’ safety. It’s all about power. Otherwise the police would be patrolling the street instead of reading our email (and now our facebook posts).

  • Erthwjim

    The world is becoming more and more like the last season of Southpark. People hired to filter out speech on social networks, even if it is hate speech

  • Erthwjim

    It will depend on who’s in power as to which group of people cannot be criticized

  • Joel Leonheart

    Well I mainly use it to login to other sites/services anyhow but still fucked up :/

  • InzMovi

    This has been predicted long ago. Both governments and corporations profit by censorship.

  • F3N

    So will Facebook finally ban ISIS recruiting and other insanities like “kill all men”? I doubt it.

  • SevTheBear

    So they want to make Facebook into North Korea?

  • Reptile

    I can only see this being used to silence people while they are assaulted by refugees (like in cologne). While I know it isn’t all refugees the ones that don’t do that aren’t purging his own guys for it.
    In my view, it will only generate anger and hate between germans (other europeans aswell) and the refugees, because they will feel worthless and without a voice, being abused by the refugees just like kids being bullied in high school and the government will do nothing for them, because “Ohh, poor refugees!”.
    So what could happen? Another political group can use this anger as a banner, just like the Nazi party blamed jews for their economic problems back then, but now they have stronger reasons, they use it as propaganda to get to power. And then we can see another “WW 2”.

  • Garbagio Dumpsterino

    “Calls for violence” should be limited. However, there needs to be strict criteria for what constitutes as such. “Islam is horrible” is not the same as “Go forth and injure Muslims”.

  • Garbagio Dumpsterino

    You know, you can be a liberal without hating people because of their gender or sexual orientation.

  • m-p{3}

    They should really think twice about that dislike button. It’s by no means perfect, but better than direct censorship.

  • Clairity

    He’s probably got liberals confused with the Regressive Left. A sad but not too surprising misconception.

  • Pooch Nasty

    It’s also about self-hate in Germany, especially in the older generations, after WWII. Many are glad about declining birthrates and huge migrant numbers, and speak of it openly. They see cultural and ethnic suicide as the right thing to do, hence why dissent and “far right” groups are so evil to them.

  • Sainguin

    Not and instruction manual, it’s the religious text of the regressive left.

    They give a bad name to anyone with liberal views, making us all seem like we’re total fucking wackjobs devoted to destroying our own cultures.

  • Nicki Ashley

    Agreed, I find myself always caveating with “classic” liberal, these days.