Will social media companies ban the Great Replacement Theory?

Buffalo, NY, mass shooting on that Killed 10 people Saturday was an event shaped by and for online platforms, including message boards, broadcasts and social media sites.

Now, with the predominantly black neighborhood that targeted suspected killer Payton Gendron reeling, whether these platforms allow their users to spread the racist “Great Replacement Theory” that apparently motivated him has become a matter of public safety.

In the past, major social media companies have indicated a clear link to real-world violence as a driving force for the suppression of specific categories of extremist discourse. Having long allowed Holocaust denial under the banner of freedom of expression, Facebook finally banned Posts like these in 2020 are in response to the rising rates of antisemitic violence. like that forbidden The QAnon conspiracy movement for similar reasons, saying that even QAnon content that does not itself advocate violence can still be “associated with various forms of real-world mischief”.

In theory, the massacre at Buffalo could signal a moment of truth similar to the Great Replacement Theory, which claims that white people are “replaced” by non-white groups, which Gendron referred to repeatedly in a 180-page manifesto posted online prior to the outburst.

But it’s not clear how things will actually turn out, given the political pressure weighing on social media companies and the adoption of similar rhetoric by some of the most prominent right-wing figures.

Representatives for Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the specific strategies or rules they are using to modify the great substitution theory content. A YouTube spokesperson did not immediately comment.

On most large social platforms, Courtney Radsch, a fellow at UCLA Institute of Technology, Law and Policy, said hate speech directed at a particular group, as well as related threats of violence, are a violation of their terms of service. . What the shooting in Buffalo could do, she said, is give tech companies some freedom to enforce these rules more forcefully.

“I think when you see an association with violence in the real world, and such a direct association, that will provide more cover” for repression, Radsch said.

“However, it’s going to be a very difficult situation because a lot of this rhetoric is happening on the far right; I’ve got this cover for Tucker Carlson and Fox News,” she said.

New York Times Analysis Of the 1,150 episodes of Carlson’s Fox show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” he identified promoting fear of racial substitution as a consistent line, including more than 400 episodes in which Carlson claimed that Democrats (and some Republicans) are trying to use immigration policy to change American politics. demographics.

Since there is already a perception among some conservatives that social media companies are biased against right-wing content — a notion refuted by research — cracking down on cool posts about replacement theory could put the platforms in a shady political position, Radch said. “Maybe that will make it more difficult for these platforms to take action.”

Wendy Via, co-founder and head of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said that because social media platforms often treat the powerful and well-connected with baby gloves, Carlson — and other ideologically aligned politicians like J.D. Vance and Jim Jordan — “is not being moderated in the way that no one else does.”

“Great redemption content is going to spread out of control because those who pay for it” enjoy preferential treatment, Villa said. “He is allowed to pass.”

It is not a new problem.

After the 2019 mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, it happened Multiple mosques were targeted“Facebook took immediate action” to ban the platform’s great advocates of substitution theory, including the group generation identityVia said. (When Facebook’s list of “dangerous individuals and organizations” that cannot be commended is on the platform Leaked last yearThere have been several European chapters of Generation Identity.)

But the problem, Villa said, is that such efforts happen erratically and occur unevenly across different social networks.

“It takes these big things to get them to take action,” she said, but even then, “they don’t go from zero to 100. They go from zero to 20. … they have to go from zero to 100, not halfway to That, but it takes people dying to get them to move [even] gradually.

But I think they will move gradually [now]. “

Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Extremism, was less confident.

“I try not to be pessimistic, but if the past is any indication, I don’t know how successful they are, or how much effort these companies are going to put into that,” Segal said, adding that similar cycles of corporate reform occurred after the Christchurch shooting in addition to the shootings. The 2019 El Paso rally targeting Latinos and the 2017 “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. role in both.

“This is a rinse and repeat,” Segal said. “In the end, do those changes they make in response to tragedy have a lasting effect?”

Segal said that influencers like Carlson pushing the ideology behind this latest tragedy may discourage platform companies from trying to combat its spread, but they shouldn’t.

“The fact that the ‘Great Alternative’ is not only becoming ubiquitous in some marginal extreme, but also in our general discussion, suggests that there is more reason for them to take a stand on the issue,” he said. [moderating it]No less.”

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