- Facebook announced that it is banning white nationalist and separatist content on its platforms.
- Some have applauded the company, while others wonder if it will be effective, and why this was not their policy in the first place.
- Its previous policy made a distinction between white supremacy, which was banned, and white nationalism and separatism, which was allowed.
What’s Facebook’s New Policy?
Facebook announced Wednesday that it will ban all white nationalist and separatist content from its platform.
A post, titled “Standing Against Hate,” informed users that the policy will take effect starting next week on both Facebook and Instagram. In it, the company acknowledged that other forms of hate speech, like white supremacy, were already not allowed. However, they explained that they previously viewed white nationalism and separatism differently.
“Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion — and that has always included white supremacy,” the post read. “We didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and white separatism because we were thinking about broader concepts of nationalism and separatism — things like American pride and Basque separatism, which are an important part of people’s identity.”
According to the post, the company has spent the last several months speaking with organizations, academics, and other experts on race relations, who all said that the ideologies behind white nationalism and separatism were tied closely to white supremacy, and that a line can’t be truly drawn between them. This implored Facebook to change their policy.
“Going forward, while people will still be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, we will not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and white separatism,” the company said in their post.
In addition to this, the tech giant claimed it is also working on its speed and efficiency when it comes to removing hateful content. They also said that any search on white nationalism will link the user to Life After Hate, an organization founded by former extremists that provides outreach, education, and crisis intervention.
What Prompted This Change in Policy?
In the past, Facebook has received no shortage of criticism for the way it monitors hate speech. In 2018, Motherboard leaked Facebook’s training documents on their hate speech policies. Those documents specifically okayed white nationalism and separatism, while drawing a line at white supremacy. Many civil rights groups disagreed with this, likely leading the company to start the discussions that lead to Wednesday’s policy update.
While they didn’t mention it in their post, the timing of this announcement also follows the recent tragedy in New Zealand that left 50 dead. In that attack, a gunman used Facebook to stream himself killing people inside two mosques. The gunman was identified as a white nationalist, and after this incident many called for Facebook to do more about the hateful and harmful rhetoric on its site.
What Do People Think About This?
Their decision has been met with as much praise as it has skepticism.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, called it “positive” in a press conference, while also noting that these ideas have always been hate speech.
“Arguably these categories should always fall within the community guidelines of hate speech,” Ardern said. “But nevertheless it’s positive the clarification has now been made in the wake of the attack in Christchurch.”
Kristen Clarke, the President of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization that lobbied Facebook on the matter, congratulated the company in a tweet, calling it an “important victory.”
On the other side, Vera Eidelman, an attorney for the ACLU, thinks Facebook has the right sentiment, but is concerned about potential unintended consequences, telling NPR:
“White supremacist, nationalist and separatist views are repugnant, and Facebook as a private company is well within its rights to remove such hate and bigotry from its platform,” Eidelman wrote to NPR.
“In its attempts to police the speech of over two billion people, Facebook runs the risk of censoring those that attack white nationalism, too. Further, every time Facebook makes the choice to remove content, a single company is exercising an unchecked power to silence individuals and remove them from what has become an indispensable platform.”
See What Others Are Saying: (NPR) (Technology Review) (Vox)
Walmart Removes “Violent” Displays Including Video Game Demos From Stores
- Walmart employees were given a memo instructing them to remove all signs and demos for “violent” video games, as well as turn off any movies or videos depicting violence.
- Walmart, which is one of the largest gun sellers in the U.S., has come under renewed fire for continuing firearm sales after two recent shootings at their stores.
- On Wednesday, dozens of Walmart employees in San Bruno, California staged a walkout to protest the company’s gun sales.
- Walmart has said it will not change its policies around the sale of firearms.
Walmart is instructing its employees to take down displays “referencing violence” following recent fatal shootings in two of their stores.
On Aug. 3, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring dozens more. A few days earlier, on July 30, another gunman shot and killed two employees and injured a police officer at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi.
Following the shooting, many politicians including President Donald Trump partially blamed violent videogames for the massacres.
Earlier this week, a memo sent to Walmart employees titled “Immediate Action: Remove Signing and Displays Referencing Violence” circulated on social media. Walmart confirmed the authenticity of the letter to USA Today on Thursday.
“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and this action does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment,” Walmart spokeswoman Tara House said in a statement to the media.
The memo specifically tells employees to turn off demos of “violent games, specifically PlayStation or Xbox units” and instructs them to cancel promotional events for “combat style or third-person shooter games.”
It also tells staff to turn off movies that depict violence as well as hunting season videos that are played in sporting goods sections.
Calls for Action & Employee Walkout
The memo does not indicate that Walmart will stop selling any of the products in the displays that employees have been directed to remove.
Critics have since argued that the store should focus less on video games and more on its current gun sale policies Advocacy groups, employees, politicians, and others have called for Walmart to do more to prevent gun violence, including stopping selling firearms altogether.
Walmart is one of the largest firearm and ammunition retailers in the United States. It also allows customers to carry guns in their stores in the cities and states where open carry is legal.
Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on Walmart to stop selling guns, writing on Twitter, “The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees. No profit is worth those lives.”
Companies that sell guns have a responsibility to the safety of their communities. @Walmart is one of the largest gun retailers in the world. The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees. No profit is worth those lives. Do the right thing—stop selling guns.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 9, 2019
Actress and activist Alyssa Milano also implored the store to stop selling guns on Twitter.
Walmart Employees Walkout
Separately, dozens of Walmart employees staged a walkout in San Bruno, California on Wednesday after two employees sent emails and Slack messages to all about 20,000 employees calling for a strike to protest the company’s firearm sales.
The two employees, Thomas Marshall and Kate Kesner, also circulated a Change.org petition, which currently has over 54,000 signatures.
Marshall told the Washington Post that some Walmart employees are concerned they could face retaliation from the company if they participated in the strike. “People are really afraid for their jobs,” he said. “Walmart has a reputation for silencing dissent.”
Walmart has since disabled both Marshall and Kesner’s company email and Slack accounts.
Despite public backlash, Walmart for its part has indicated it will not stop selling guns. “There has been no change in company policy,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an interview earlier this week.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon also addressed the shootings in a statement on his Facebook page.
“We will work to understand the many important issues that arise from El Paso and Southaven, as well as those that have been raised in the broader national discussion around gun violence,” he wrote.
McMillon did not provide any specific details or plans.
While many are not optimistic, others have noted changes Walmart has made in the past. In 2015, the company stopped selling assault rifles, and following the Parkland shooting in 2018 they raised the minimum gun purchasing age from 18 to 21.
See what others are saying: (VICE) (USA Today) (The Washington Post)
Equinox, SoulCycle Face Boycott Calls Over Owner’s Trump Fundraiser
- After a Washinton Post report showed that Equinox and SoulCycle owner Stephen Ross was hosting a Trump fundraiser, many big names decided to boycott the exercise chains.
- Chrissy Teigen, Jonathan Van Ness, and others all said they would be boycotting to the gym.
- Equinox and SoulCycle responded to the boycotts and said they had nothing to do with the fundraising event.
- Ross also responded, saying that he is an active participant in the democratic process, and is a champion for racial equality and inclusion.
Stephen Ross Set to Host Trump Fundraiser
Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen are calling for a boycott of Equinox and SoulCycle after it was revealed that the owner would be hosting a fundraising event for President Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Stephen Ross would be hosting a fundraising event in the Hamptons for Trump on August 9. Ross is a chairman and the majority owner of Related Companies, which runs Equinox and SoulCycle, and is the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
Tickets for the event can cost up to $250,000, with those paying the highest pricetag getting lunch, as well as a photo and roundtable discussion with the president.
Celebrities Call for Boycott
On Wednesday, both Equinox and SoulCycle were trending topics on Twitter, with many calling for boycotts of the locations. Some were specifically frustrated as Equinox has prided itself on being LGBTQ friendly, and has had a presence at several pride events throughout the country.
Many celebrities joined the discussion of boycotting, including actor and comedian Billy Eichner.
“Considering @Equinox’s clientele and how they’ve pandered to us, this one feels particularly hypocritical and shameful,” he wrote.
Queer Eye’s beauty guru Jonathan Van Ness also canceled his membership.
Miami Dolphins player Kenny Stills also chimed in about his team’s owner. He specifically called out a non-profit called Rise, which Ross is a co-chair of. The mission statement claims that the organization “educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.” Stills found this to be hypocritical based on Ross’ support for Trump.
Model and regular critic of Trump Chrissy Teigen also spoke up about the news.
“Hello, I don’t normally make posts like this but a lot of my very cool, socially aware, progressive, awesome, amazing friends are members of Equinox or Soul Cycle,” she said on her Instagram story. “And I just want to let you know that their owner is hosting a giant Trump fundraiser and so fuck them. Cancel your memberships today.
“You can come to my house and work out,” Teigen offered. “But yeah, just think about it. If you’re fine with that cool, go right ahead. But if you’re not, and I know a lot of you are not fine with that, cancel. Thank you!.”
It appears these stars were not alone in reaching out to the company. Teigen tweeted a screenshot of what looks like a cancelation confirmation from Equinox. That e-mail said that the company was “experiencing extremely high volumes of emails.”
However, Teigen did get some backlash for encouraging the boycott. On Instagram, she shared a post of a user who said, “Are we SERIOUSLY not using businesses now that don’t have the same political views as us????”
“Yeah we fucking are,” Teigen commented. “These ‘different views’ you speak of are fundamental differences in compassion, empathy, humanity.”
There were, however, others who disagreed with the boycott. Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy said that Democrats were “further dividing & bullying the nation.”
Equinox, SoulCycle and Ross Respond
Equinox eventually released a statement about the matter and claimed that they “have nothing to do with the event and do not support it.”
SoulCycle released a similar statement as well. Some online took issue with their statement referring to Ross as a “passive investor.” They felt this downplayed his role, as he is the chairman of their parent company.
Ross ended up releasing a statement of his own via Miami Herald reporter Adam Beasley.
“I always have been an active participant in the democratic process,” Ross said.
“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions,” he later added.
Ross finished his statement by saying, “I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental stability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Business Insider) (Reuters)
Webcam Hacking: Myths, Truths, and Protecting Your Privacy Online
The thought has crossed our minds at one point or another, “Could someone be watching me through my webcam?” While some are quick to dismiss the idea, others prefer to approach with caution and safeguard their digital privacy.
In today’s video, we talk about whether or not you should be covering your camera and what steps you need to take to protect your identity and information. Click on the video to learn about new threat actors you should be on the lookout for and tips for practicing good digital hygiene.