Madihha Ahussain, a lawyer for Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group, said the policy change was “a welcome development” in the wake of the New Zealand mosque shootings. But she said the company still had to explain how it will enforce the policy, including how it will determine what constitutes white nationalist content.
“We need to know how Facebook will define white nationalist and white separatist content,” she said in an email. “For example, will it include expressions of anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ sentiment — all underlying foundations of white nationalism? Further, if the policy lacks robust, informed and assertive enforcement, it will continue to leave vulnerable communities at the mercy of hate groups.”
Mark Pitcavage, who tracks domestic extremism for the Anti-Defamation League, said the shift from Facebook was “a good thing if they were using such a narrow definition before.”
Mr. Pitcavage said the term white nationalism “had always been used as a euphemism for white supremacy, and today it is still used as a euphemism for white supremacy.” He called the two terms “identically extreme.”
He said white supremacists began using the term “white nationalist” after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the term “white supremacy” began to receive sustained scorn from mainstream society, including among white people.
“The less hard-core white supremacists stopped using any term for themselves, but the more hard-core white supremacists started using ‘white nationalism’ as a euphemism for ‘white supremacy,’” he said.
And he said comparisons between white nationalism and American patriotism or ethnic pride were misplaced.
“Whiteness is not an ethnicity, it is a skin color,” Mr. Pitcavage said. “And America is a multicultural society. White nationalism is simply a form of white supremacy. It is an ideology centered on hate.”