Facebook has failed to remove hate groups from its platform, investigation reveals

Facebook is also failing to re-direct users searching for hate terms to websites promoting tolerance.

Updated - August 22, 2022 03:27 pm IST

Published - August 17, 2022 12:32 am IST

This file photo taken in Nantes, shows the logo of Facebook

This file photo taken in Nantes, shows the logo of Facebook | Photo Credit: LOIC VENANCE

Meta-owned Facebook has failed to take down white supremacist hate groups from its platform despite assuring users that it would ban them, an investigation revealed last week. The platform is also generating ad revenues from these groups, according to The Tech Transparency project (TPP), a research initiative of Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog organisation.

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In response to a civil rights audit that criticised Facebook’s approach to racial justice issues, the platform said last November that it had taken steps to ban “organized hate groups, including white supremacist organizations, from the platform.”

However, TPP found that more than 80 white supremacist groups have a presence on Facebook, including some that Facebook itself has labelled as “dangerous organizations.” 

The team searched Facebook for 226 organisations in their datasets to check if the searches were monetised with ads. They found that Facebook served ads in more than 40% of the searches for white supremacist groups.

The ads appearing in these searches ranged from the Coast Guard Foundation to retailers like Poshmark and Walmart—brands that likely don’t want to be associated with white supremacy. 

Searches for some white supremacist groups, including those with “Ku Klux Klan” in their names, showed advertisements for Black churches, raising concerns that Facebook is highlighting potential targets for extremists, according to the research.

The U.S. has seen a string of racially motivated mass shootings in recent years. In 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine Black members of a church in Charleston, South Carolina. More recently, a shooter in Buffalo, New York researched Black communities online to identify targets, before killing 10 at a supermarket.

TTP also found Google serving ads on some searches for the same set of 226 white supremacist organisations—though at a much lower rate of 12%. Facebook’s rate of monetisation is more than three times higher.

The investigation also found that despite years of warnings that Facebook’s algorithmic tools are pushing users toward extremism, the platform continues to auto-generate Pages for white supremacist organisations and direct users who visit white supremacist Pages to other extremist content. 

Facebook is also failing to re-direct users searching for hate terms to websites promoting tolerance.

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