TTP Investigation: Facebook is Helping White Supremacists Organize and Spread Hate Online
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2020
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a new report revealing how more than 100 white supremacist groups maintain an active presence on Facebook despite the company’s policy banning hate groups. TTP searched Facebook for 221 white supremacist groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and found that more than half have a presence on Facebook. In some cases, Facebook’s algorithms automatically generated pages for the white supremacist groups.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Facebook claims that it bans white supremacists and other hate groups from its platform, but Facebook’s own algorithms are actively helping white supremacists organize and spread their hate online. While Facebook may claim that it is trying to rid its platform of hateful groups, Zuckerberg is content to let bigots spread their ideology as long as it keeps making money for his company.”
Facebook has claimed that it is expanding its efforts to remove hate speech from the platform. After the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the live broadcast of the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, Facebook publicly removed some white supremacist groups.
Despite these public crackdowns, hundreds of such groups continue to exist on Facebook. TTP searched Facebook for 221 white supremacist groups identified by SPLC and ADL and found that more than 100 have an active presence on Facebook. In searching the names of the 221 groups, TTP found that only six percent of the searches directed users to the “Life After Hate” page, which is run by an organization dedicated to promoting tolerance. Facebook has promised to reduce the spread of hate on its platform by directing users searching for white supremacy terms to this organization.
In some cases, Facebook helped create the pages for the white supremacy groups. When a user logs into Facebook and lists an employer or school location that does not have an accompanying page, Facebook automatically creates a business page for that entity. For instance, the page for “Universal Aryan Brotherhood Movement” was automatically created after a Facebook user listed that group as their employer. These auto-generated pages can be “liked” by other Facebook users, helping generate a network of like-minded individuals.
Facebook has previously been warned about how its algorithms spread hate and violence. In April 2019, an anonymous whistleblower filed a petition with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) highlighting how, among other things, auto-generating business pages helps white supremacists and terrorists organize on the platform.
Beyond business pages, Facebook recommends “Related Pages” when a user is browsing a group page. TTP found that when users browse the page “Nazi Low Riders,” Facebook recommends that users visit a separate page called “Aryanbrotherhood.”
Facebook in some cases also profits directly from advertising run by white supremacist pages. A network of accounts linked to VDARE, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group, and individuals associated with a similar website called The Unz Review, spent $114,000 on advertising on the social network, according to Facebook, which recently removed the network for “suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Mr. Stevens continued, “Facebook’s problem is that it has built a toxic platform that it cannot control. Facebook is aware of the white supremacy groups that exist in this country, and it has promised to remove their pages. Rather than crack down on white supremacy groups, Facebook is in fact helping them organize and recruit more members. Facebook’s broken promises are simply an attempt to cover up the problems on its platform.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.