As the most popular social media site on the Internet, it's hard to argue against Facebook's role in the ever-developing nature of our society. Amid the ongoing refugee crisis and the backlash against them in Europe, the tech company rolled out a new campaign aimed at fighting hateful extremist rhetoric. Partnering with European lawmakers and advocates, Facebook's Online Civil Courage Initiative is an anti-hate speech push to curb the growing sentiment against refugees in the region.
Alongside the German government, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and the German NGO Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Facebook will craft a game plan for combating hate speech and extremism online.
Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg unveiled the campaign on Monday. "We have repeatedly emphasized that Facebook is no place for the dissemination of xenophobia, hate speech or calls for violence," Sandberg was quoted as saying in the press release. "With this new initiative, we are convinced to better understand and respond to the challenges of extremist speech on the Internet."
Struggling to cope with the influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, many people — and governments — in Europe have lashed out against those fleeing violence, persecution, and ongoing conflict in their home countries. Incidences such as the terror attacks in Paris and the spate of sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve have contributed to the mounting tension.
In countries that have welcomed refugees (like France and Germany), such events stoke even bigger debate on their policies on immigration and refugees.
That debate is nowhere louder and more fervent than on the Internet, a gathering of ideas and opinions where hate speech also flourishes. "Deleting content won't make the hatred go away," Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the Online Civil Courage Initiative launch. We can't just treat the symptoms — we have to treat the cause. We need the voices of tolerance and love to ring out across the world, because the best remedy to bad speech is more speech.
"Hate speech has no place online — or in society. Together, we can make sure the voices of peace, truth and tolerance are heard. Love is louder than hate."
Cover image via Spencer Platt / Getty Images