TTP + ADL: Social Media Platforms Potentially Monetizing Searches for Hate Groups and Extremists
New York, NY, September 27, 2023 — Some social media platforms are potentially profiting from advertisement placements alongside searches for hate groups and extremists, according to a new review by ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) and the Tech Transparency Project (TTP). Of the major platforms reviewed, YouTube was the worst offender, followed by X (formerly Twitter). Notably, Facebook and Instagram demonstrated the potential for tech platforms to avoid monetizing searches for hate and extremism.
The article, “Profiting from Hate: Platforms’ Ad Placement Problem,” examines whether major social media platforms YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Instagram are potentially generating profit by placing advertisements alongside search query results for hate groups and extremists.
“Social media platforms should not be profiting off of online hate and extremism, plain and simple. YouTube and X are potentially generating ad revenue off content produced by hate groups, content which would often violate their own policies,” said Yael Eisenstat, Vice President of the ADL Center for Technology and Society.
Findings show that YouTube is not only likely profiting from searches for hate groups on its platform, but also auto-generating — and potentially profiting from — music videos for white supremacist bands. The review also revealed that YouTube ran ads in search results for numerous antisemitic and white supremacist groups, potentially creating brand safety concerns for companies like Walmart, Amazon and Wayfair. While X also placed ads alongside searches for hate groups, it did so for a smaller percentage of hate group searches compared to YouTube. Both Facebook and Instagram (Meta-owned) displayed ads in only a handful of hate group searches.
“The tech industry should urgently stop monetizing searches for hate groups,” said Katie Paul, Director of the Tech Transparency Project. “Major brands are unwittingly associated with groups that promote antisemitism and hate online and, in some cases, inspire physical violence.”
Based on the findings, ADL proposes the following reforms for the social media industry and government:
– Improve ad placement features. Social media platforms must ensure advertisements are not placed in close proximity to hateful or antisemitic content.
– Stop auto-generating hate. Platforms should either properly program tools to distinguish between auto-generating hateful and innocuous content, or suspend auto-generation features.
– Share more information about advertising policies. Platforms should be more transparent about revenue-sharing practices and policies around ad placement.
– Mandate transparency regarding platform advertising policies and practices. Congress should require tech companies to share more information about how platforms monetize content and what policies drive advertising decisions.
– Update Section 230. Congress should update Section 230 to better define what type of online activity should remain covered and what type of platform behavior should not be immune from liability.
– Regulate surveillance advertising. Congress must focus on how consumers and advertisers are impacted by a business model that optimizes for engagement. Congress should restrict ad targeting and enhance data privacy to prevent the exploitation of user data for profit, which can lead to the monetization of hate and antisemitism.
ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry wherever and whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all.
Tech Transparency Project (TTP) is an information and research hub for journalists, academics, policymakers and members of the public interested in exploring the influence of the major technology platforms on politics, policy, and our lives. TTP is a research initiative of Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life. Learn more at techtransparencyproject.org