Facebook has revealed new plans to tackle extremism by educating charities and other organisations on how to counter hate speech.
The social media giant has launched the Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI), which the firm said would act as a forum for charities and other non-profit organisations to share their experiences of extremism and develop “best practices” to tackle the issue both on and offline.
The initiative’s founding partners include the Jo Cox Foundation, set up in memory of the murdered MP, as well as other anti-hate groups from the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The OCCI will be used as a way to share experiences on facing hate speech and extremism, Facebook said, with the aim of the scheme to create awareness campaigns and better “counterspeech” to tackle extremism.
Internet companies have come under increased scrutiny from the Government over their role in the spread of hate speech.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the Government was “not frightened” to issue sanctions to firms who failed to remove extreme material.
Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said of the company’s practices: “There is no place for hate or violence on Facebook.
“We use technology like AI to find and remove terrorist propaganda, and we have teams of counterterrorism experts and reviewers around the world working to keep extremist content off our platform.
“Partnerships with others – including tech companies, civil society, researchers and governments – are also a crucial piece of the puzzle.
“The UK Online Civil Courage Initiative will support NGOs and community groups who work across the UK to challenge the extremist narratives that cause such harm.
“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.”
The OCCI has already launched in Germany and France, and is being supported by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, who said it would help the scheme mobilise “innovative technology together with expert knowledge” to counter the spread of hate speech.
Mark Gardner, Director of Communications, Community Security Trust: “Recent events show the vital importance of good people standing united against division, hatred and extremism. Facebook’s OCCI initiative has never been more necessary and CST is delighted to support and participate in the project.”
Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, which works to tackle anti-Muslim hatred and is an OCCI founding partner, said: “This initiative is much needed given that a vast amount of material online may be insulting and sometimes inflammatory, though it may not cross a legal threshold for action.
“This means that civil society mobilisation is needed as counter-speech to tackle such texts, language and ideologies.
“This is one tool in challenging motivations and ideologies that seek to divide us and to marginalise people as though they are not part of our country.
“We are in a battle for hearts and minds and this initiative is one tool in mobilising the enormous force for good that is in communities.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The scale and nature of the terrorist threat we face is constantly evolving as terrorist supporters increase the speed in which they communicate their hateful messages and content online.
“We have called on industry to take more action on the issue and welcome this new initiative from Facebook to provide support to other organisations in tackling terrorist and extremist material.
“Technology companies still need to go further and faster in moving towards preventing this type of toxic output being disseminated in the first place.
“We look forward to seeing how the industry-led forum, which will combat terrorist use of the internet, will build on this collective response to the threat.”