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Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

There is real damage being done to Black people on Facebook, and removing eight white supremacist groups while still allowing this racist abuse to go on is nothing more than performative allyship.

Following the display of white terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, many sites began to drop known white supremacist hate groups from their services. Facebook was among those entities.

Over the years, I and many others have reported a number of white supremacist and white nationalist groups to Facebook. None of them were removed even though, per the “Dangerous Organizations” section of their Community Standards, these groups should not have had a place on the social media platform to begin with. But now, among public and passionate social critique of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, Facebook finally removed eight of them. Eight. There are over one hundred more.

This feels very much like when Facebook hung a Black Lives Matter manner at its headquarters two years ago. Many people commended Zuckerberg for this display and took it as a sign of allyship with Black people, but some of us knew better. Almost immediately, the banner was defaced by its employees, because Facebook employs racists. These Public Displays of Allyship do absolutely nothing to help anyone, especially when Facebook is still fundamentally racist and anti-Black.

Related: HEY, WHITE ALLIES? IT’S GAME TIME.

Zuckerberg disavowed hate groups in a recent post, saying: “We’ve always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism.” This is a lie and he knows it. It may have publicly condemned eight white supremacist groups by removing them from the platform, but Facebook has always disproportionately banned and removed the content of Black activists while refusing to ban white users who spout racism towards us. It has been repeatedly proven that the Community Standards are in place to protect whiteness above all else, and my own experience with it as a digital activist has been beyond tedious and demoralizing.

Hunter Shackelford recently had their Facebook profile banned after a streaming live video in which they discussed racism and the violence of whiteness. This all came after Shackelford had received hate messages and death threats from white users who were not reprimanded in any way. Not long after, their PayPal was suspended for six months. PayPal is among the list of entities that publicly distanced itself from white supremacists, but this same company has cut off a Black activist from necessary funds because she spoke up about white supremacy. 

Related: PRACTICAL WAYS WHITE ALLIES CAN INFLUENCE THEIR COMMUNITIES

Tanya Fields, a food activist based in New York, was banned for three days for sharing information on how to provide support to a Black woman rescuing flood victims in Houston. On her alternate profile, Tanya shared a live video in which she spoke about the Facebook ban and the impact that it had on her and her work. “My digital activism is a reflection, an extension of my physical activism… Connecting with 25,000 people is what allows me to do my activist work and Facebook is literally keeping me from doing that,” she remarked, her voice wavering with passion and frustration.

Myself and many other Black users who are vocal about white supremacy continue to be banned for writing about our experiences with anti-Blackness and the traumas we witness daily. Meanwhile white users and organizations are permitted to spread hateful rhetoric without reprimand or consequences. With each ban, we are told that we have “violated Community Standards” in some way, but we are never told exactly which rules we have supposedly broken. This means that Facebook can easily ban any user without ever having to account for the reasons why, and this is an abuse of power.

The social media giant has literally helped to connect, organize, and mobilize white supremacists by hosting their groups and pages. These groups have used it to communicate and recruit membership through the dissemination of propaganda and hate speech, and they only become more emboldened when they see that their whiteness protects them from facing any real consequences for their threats and harassment of people of color on the platform. As they continue to threaten us with violence and even celebrate in our oppression, we are the one who are silenced when we speak up about the violence of white supremacy, or sometimes even when we just speak up to support other Black people.

Others are beginning to publicly criticize Facebook for its racial biases in banning practices and deployment of its Community Standards. Gradually, others are beginning to realize what Black people on social media have known as truth for a long time: Facebook allows white violence to flourish on its platform.

There is real damage being done to Black people on Facebook, and removing eight white supremacist groups while still allowing this racist abuse to go on is nothing more than performative allyship.

 

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Sherronda (she/they) is an essayist, editor, and storyteller writing pop culture and media analysis through a Black feminist lens with historical and cultural context. They often find themselves transfixed by Black monstrosity, survival, and resistance in the horror genre and its many fantastical narratives, especially zombie lore. Read more of their work at Black Youth Project.

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