TTP Investigation: Facebook Ran Recruitment Ads for Militia Groups
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 19, 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), unveiled the results of an investigation showing how Facebook for years allowed militia groups to recruit new members via paid advertisements on the platform. The review — which followed news of the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which played out on Facebook and other social media — also found more than 50 militia pages and groups that are still active on Facebook.
CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “The alleged purpose of Facebook’s ad review process is to reject dangerous ads before they reach users, but TTP’s findings reveal Facebook’s disturbingly consistent track record of taking money from advertisers first and asking questions later.”
TTP’s investigation identified a number of Facebook ads used by militia groups to recruit new members, including a July ad urging users to “Fight with us to take back America.” Facebook has never addressed the issue of how it profited from these ads and what, if anything, it will do with the revenue received from them. Despite Facebook’s recently announced crackdown on “militarized social movements,” TTP found an October ad that “strongly encouraged” militias to attend a “freedom march” in cities across the country just days before the election.
The review documented how Facebook’s recommendation algorithm is still pointing users who visit militia pages to other militia pages, potentially accelerating radicalization.
TTP’s investigation also revealed how Facebook is failing to remove threats to public officials and racial justice protesters. On Oct. 5, a member of a group called “Pro-Police, Pro-Military, Pro-Trump” suggested that Rep. Ilhan Omar should be “sent to Guantanamo Bay,” sparking replies that included “Just shoot the bitch” and “she needs a drone strike.” In a Facebook group called “Trump’s Army,” which has roughly 99,900 members, a discussion about people demonstrating against the police killing of Breonna Taylor led one member to write, “All Trump supporters should shoot them and kill them,” prompting a reply, “working on it.”
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Any genuine benevolence that Facebook’s leadership may exhibit in the fight against online extremism is constantly defeated by an insatiable appetite for ad dollars. If moderators hired by Facebook and algorithms developed by Facebook are both failing to stop the spread of extremism, it may be time to bring in an outside authority that can actually put people before profit.”
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.