Facebook has added a feature intended to fight “extremism” on its platform. This, coming in the wake of the Biden administration’s plan to fight “domestic extremism,” asks users: “Are you concerned that you or someone you know is becoming an extremist? We care about preventing extremism on Facebook. Others in your situation have received confidential support.” Users who were exposed to content that the platform judged “extremist” received the following warning: “you may have been exposed to harmful extremist content recently” and a link for users to “get support.”
A Facebook spokesperson said that this was the first step in a larger long-term mission of “assess[ing] ways to provide resources and support to people on Facebook who may have engaged with or were exposed to extremist content, or may know someone who is at risk.”
As part of this campaign, Facebook added a new page to its ‘Help Center’ titled “What can I do to prevent radicalization?” The page discusses several “signs that someone is at risk,” including “Say[ing] discriminatory things,” “show[ing] unusual amounts of anger or aggression,” “discuss[ing] or obsess[ing] over violence or conspiracy theories,” and “spend[ing] unhealthy amounts of time online,” among others.
This “support” link sends people to websites determined by Facebook to be non-extremist. Some were supportive of the policy, including Mitchell Clark who said “Facebook, like other platforms, has had issues with extremism for a long time, and though it’s good that it’s trying to combat it, some of its efforts feel like they should’ve been implemented long ago.” Others found the move concerning, including the staff of the online publication Human Events, who criticized the move as taking the “wild goose chase” against those who “don’t align with liberal ideologies… to new heights.”
This is a developing story, as Facebook is still rolling the program out over the next several months.