There is a lot to like about plans to direct New Zealand users who search on Facebook for white supremacy pages to anti-hate groups to help them de-radicalise.
Since the horrific live-streamed mosque shootings in Christchurch on March 15, Facebook has announced several initiatives, including signing up to the Christchurch Call and being party to a tech industry-led, nine-point plan to target online terrorist and violent extremist content.
The Menlo Park, California, headquarters is also working with real-life first-person shooter video footage to develop safety-stops to more effectively auto-block the type of video that was live-streamed on March 15.
This week it was revealed the social media giant is widening its strategy to direct Facebook users towards support groups whenever they search for white supremacy-related content.
To have this in place in the US back in March 2018 and only now signalling such a manoeuvre for New Zealand seems cumbersome.
There is no doubt it can deploy such a strategy. In March last year, Facebook started an online tool whereby US users searching with white-supremacy terminology are directed to Life After Hate, an organisation founded by former extremists that provides education and support.
This week, Facebook has announced it will introduce the same initiative in Australia, where the alleged Christchurch gunman was a citizen, and Indonesia. Users will be directed to EXIT Australia and ruangngobrol.id respectively."These are local organisations focused on helping individuals leave the direction of violent extremism and terrorism," Facebook said.
As part of the announcement on Australia and Indonesia, Facebook said it wants to roll the programme out to New Zealand, although it has not stated when that will happen and which local group it will partner with.
The actions are part of Facebook's response to the Christchurch Call, hastily called in Paris in the wake of the New Zealand mosque shootings, where it was noted how the business models of online platforms had the effect of funnelling users towards increasingly radical content.
One aspect of the Christchurch Call was for tech companies to take heed and monitor how this occurred and to use counter-narratives to re-direct users where necessary.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce progress on the Christchurch Call next week during her visit to New York.
The redirection moves by Facebook should certainly be welcomed but a question hovers over why it has taken so long. To have this in place in the US back in March 2018 and only now signalling such a manoeuvre for New Zealand seems cumbersome.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark observed soon after March 15 that if the companies put as much effort into developing algorithms for preventing the spread of hate material as they put into targeted advertising, they could solve the problem.
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg pointed out several changes the social media company was making 15 days after the mosque shootings, but redirecting searches for vile hatred was not among them, despite it already being in place in the US for 12 months.
Sure it's said the larger the ship, the longer it takes to turn. But the events of March 15 this year should have added impetus to the hand on the helm.
Actions speak louder than words and it's past time Facebook took action.