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Expert comment: Facebook is "getting into the political territory it has tried to avoid in the past"

As Facebook announces plans to block content promoting white nationalism and separatism, Professor Mark Skilton from Warwick Business School, who specialises in digital business, discusses the challenges that the social media giant faces in policing the content of its platform.

Professor Skilton said: "This is Facebook getting into the political territory it has tried to avoid in the past, but clearly, the New Zealand terrorist attack case has again exposed the multiple issues of letting known activist groups operating on social media platforms. Recent research in the USA on Facebook profiles for people posting such sentiments have shown they can be redirected and reused by others for unintended or other reasons. The clear summary point is that even if Facebook says they cannot meaningfully separate white nationalism from white supremacists and hate groups, it's an admission by Facebook that this needs to be removed from the platform rather than just measuring it like in the past.

"Facebook fuels good and bad messages even if the original group or message appears benign, the policy of the group agenda measures that it’s a risk and threat regardless. This does not solve being able to block real-time broadcasts of evil acts or the notion of being able to arbitrate what is deemed civil behaviour, but it’s a good step.

"I can see the frustration of some sides of the media with politicians that manipulate social media commentary to promote a personal view. That’s free speech, but it is not when it is failing to take action and responsibility for the civil society that elected those officials to the office to represent all the people, not some of them. For that reason, I still don’t think to let social media companies police their own platform is good as they are touching on areas that they were not elected to do in a democratic society."

28 March 2019


Peter Thorley

Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)


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