Culture

Reddit, Facebook ban neo-Nazi groups after Charlottesville attack

The Charlottesville tragedy has highlighted neo-Nazi communities across the internet. Reddit and Facebook are beginning to take action.

Just one example of the hate speech at the Physical Removal subreddit, before it was axed.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

As white nationalist protests prompted a surge of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, two separate conversations emerged online. For many, the events marked a tragedy, punctuated by an attack on counterprotesters that caused one death and the injury of 19 others

For others, particularly in far-right and neo-Nazi communities, the violence was something to be made light of, or worse, celebrated. And those conversations found homes across social communities, especially on Facebook and Reddit.

Now, those tech companies are taking action. Reddit and Facebook have each banned entire hate groups in the wake of the Charlottesville attack, they confirmed to CNET today.

One particular subreddit, r/Physical_Removal, received particular scrutiny over the weekend. Moderators and posters were flagged for numerous inflammatory remarks that have long been characteristic of that group and other similarly-minded subreddits.

Because of those posts and a lengthy history of similar comments either endorsing violence or echoing racist ideology, the backlash against r/Physical_Removal's spiked. Communities like r/AgainstHateSubreddits led the charge, calling on Reddit to take immediate action:

Everyone, please send this letter to the reddit admins and help get r/Phyical_Removal banned. Please share this with everyone you can. from AgainstHateSubreddits

Earlier today, Reddit made the ban official, axing the subreddit entirely.

"We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites violence will get users banned from Reddit. We have banned /r/Physical_Removal due to violations of the terms of our content policy," a Reddit spokesperson told CNET. 

Reddit declined to comment on whether it had banned other groups as well.

Facebook, however, which has fought fake news and hate groups throughout the year, also confirmed to CNET that they have now banned a number of group pages that violated hate speech policies. The list includes such groups as:

  • Red Winged Knight
  • Awakening Red Pill
  • Genuine Donald Trump
  • White Nationalists United
  • Right Wing Death Squad
  • Awakened Masses
  • Vanguard America
  • Physical Removal

Facebook also confirmed that it removed Charlottesville's Unite the Right event page over the weekend, and is currently removing all links to an article at The Daily Stormer that attacked Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, unless they explicitly condemn the source material. Facebook and Instagram profiles for prominent protest attendee Christopher Cantwell have also been removed following review.

(The Daily Stormer is currently down after domain name providers GoDaddy and Google both canceled its registration in protest.)

A Facebook representative says the company will continue to remove any Facebook posts that include hate speech, praise violent acts or support hate groups, in an attempt to keep those groups from organizing on Facebook. 

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Update, 12:07 p.m. PT: Includes Facebook's ban of Cantwell's profiles.