Facebook launches anti-extremism initiative after backlash

Europe-wide programme will target xenophobia on the social network

Facebook has announced a new 1 million initiative to help combat European right-wing extremism on its social network in Europe, in the wake of the ongoing refugee crisis.

The project, dubbed the Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI), was launched in Berlin on Monday evening and brings together the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR).

According to its new Facebook page, the OCCI aims "to combat online extremism and hate speech through better understanding and the ability to respond to the challenges of extremist speech on the internet".

To achieve this, the initiative will offer financial and marketing support to European NGOs already working to counter online extremism, as well as developing best practices for use by such organisations.

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It will also offer, as well as governments and other online services, and, finally, carry out research into the causes of violent extremism and hate speech "in order to understand the problem that needs to be addressed".

Facebook has been criticised, particularly by the German government, for failing to stop its site being used as a platform for racism and xenophobia, particularly in the wake of the refugee crisis currently affecting the continent.

The Financial Times reported that German prosecuters have opened an investigation into a top Facebook executve for inciting racial hatred.

Meanwhile, IT Pro's sister title Alphr reported how the site faced a backlash for failing to remove images of the Jordanian pilot burnt to death by ISIS, which were posted online by controversial organisation Britain First last year. Facebook claimed the pictures did not break its terms of use.

However, speaking at the launch of the OCCI in the German capital, Sheryl Sandberg said: "Facebook is not a place for the dissemination of hate speech or incitement to violence.

"With this new initiative, we can better understand and respond to the challenges of extremist speech on the internet."

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