Tech companies go on offense against neo-Nazis after violence

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 20, 2017

The companies, including Apple, Facebook and Reddit, are beginning to take action after the tragedy highlighted neo-Nazi communities across the internet. After the violence in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of a counterprotester, their approach has become more proactive, in anticipation of future events.

The iPhone maker has disabled support for its Apple Pay purchasing system on some online stores selling clothing and accessories with Nazi logos and slogans like "White Pride". One of these featured bumper stickers mocking the death of victim Heather Heyers, who was an anti-fascist protester.

Facebook has frequently been criticized for being too slow to remove hate speech.

Facebook also banned the Facebook and Instagram accounts of a white supremacist, Christopher Cantwell, who reportedly helped lead the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended in deadly violence. Technology companies are likely to be evaluating their options in consultation with organizations including the Anti-Defamation League before shaping their policy, Keller said.

"What's pushing them is probably a mix of people being revolted by the content, plus the public and advertising pressure", Keller said.

In March, Google expanded the definition of hate speech in its advertising policy.

Google - along with Twitter and Facebook - continues to face increased pressure to amend its user terms to bring it into compliance with European Union law pertaining to illegal content on its websites. Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has in the past touted Facebook's product for groups as a key to improving empathy around the world.

A Facebook page remains active for an August 26 Patriot Prayer rally in San Francisco, where officials have expressed concern about potential violence. "We won't always be flawless, but you have my commitment that we'll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe".

Because all the decisions are subjective, it's going to be important for technology companies to make it clear what standards they're applying when they're reacting to public outrage, Llanso said. But the Silicon Valley company is "better than most of the tech companies in removing explicitly racist material", says Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Cloudflare, which provides defense against hack attacks, also canceled service for the Daily Stormer, in a move that Cloudflare's CEO admitted could set a risky precedent. Still, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince warned that the move could set a unsafe precedent.

- Information for this article was contributed by Kartikay Mehrotra of Bloomberg News.

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