Facebook has begun testing a new feature that alerts users against extremist content, prompting immediate blowback from U.S. conservatives.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone explained on Twitter that the ‘Redirect Initiative’ launched by the social network was aimed at fighting violent extremism. According to Facebook, the Initiative sets out to redirect people who use search terms linked to hatred or violence towards resources, education and outreach groups that can help.
For example, “when people search on Facebook for terms related to white supremacy in the U.S., results are directed to Life After Hate, an organization founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups, and outreach,” Facebook explained.
Screenshots of the anti-extremism alerts were circulated on Thursday on social media.
One prompt asks users: “Are you concerned that someone you know is becoming an extremist?” Another reads: “You may have been exposed to harmful extremist content recently.” The user can then click on a link to get help or close the pop-up.
Posting one of the alerts on Twitter on Friday, Virginia Republican Nicholas Freitas said he was concerned that “some leftist technocrats are creating an Orwellian environment where people are being arbitrarily silenced or banned for saying something the ‘thought police’ doesn’t like.”
Facebook and other online platforms have been under pressure to stop the spread of fake information that can lead to violence. The social network recently strengthened its automatic tools that help group moderators keep exchanges civil. These tools check publications in news groups or threads that violate the platform’s acceptable-content rules.
In June, Facebook suspended former U.S. President Donald Trump for two years for egging on his supporters during the 6 January attack on the Capital in Washington, D.C.