Facebook brought its anti-extremism program to the UK on Friday in the wake of a spate of terrorist incidents that have rocked the country.
Under the umbrella of the “Online Civil Courage Initiative,” Facebook will offer training, marketing support and best practice advice to nongovernmental organizations on tackling hate speech, as well financial support for research into online and offline patterns of extremism.
The initiative launched in Germany and France earlier this year. It arrives in the UK following four terrorist attacks over the course of three months, after which Prime Minister Theresa May promised a crackdown on online extremism. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged in the 6,000-word manifesto he published in February that the social network has a definite role to play in thwarting extremism and the recruitment of terrorists.
The launch of the initiative in the UK also comes a week after Facebook announced new measures to counter terrorism, which included a combination of human expertise and artificial intelligence techniques to root out fake accounts, problematic language, propaganda and terrorist clusters.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Operator Sheryl Sandberg condemned the attacks in London and Manchester, saying they were “absolutely heartbreaking” as she launched the initiative in London on Friday morning.
“We know we have more to do — but through our platform, our partners and our community we will continue to learn to keep violence and extremism off Facebook,” she said.
Facebook is working alongside the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to bring the Online Civil Courage Initiative to the UK. Together they will support NGOs included the Jo Cox Foundation, set up in memory of the Labour MP murdered last year, Tell Mama, an organization tracking anti-Muslim attacks, Imams Online, and the Community Security Trust, which protects the Jewish community in the UK.
Social media platforms have a “particular responsibility” to address hate speech that flourishes online, said Jo Cox’s husband, Brendan Cox. “It is critical that efforts are taken by all online service providers and social networks to bring our communities closer together and to further crack down on those that spread violence and hatred online.”
“No one should have to live in fear of terrorism — and we all have a part to play in stopping violent extremism from spreading,” said Sandberg. “There is no place for hate or violence on Facebook.”
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