Study: Facebook allows and recommends white supremacist, antisemitic and QAnon groups with thousands of members

Despite efforts to curb hate speech and misinformation, Facebook still hosts a number of hateful and conspiratorial groups, including antisemitic and white supremacist groups with hundreds of thousands of members, and regularly recommends users join them, according to a study published Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

KEY FACTS
  • Though Facebook groups can be banned for repeatedly posting items flagged as false news, it’s possible to circumvent the regulations, leaving Facebook groups as largely self-moderated spaces ripe for bigotry and misinformation.
  • Among the groups profiled in the study are “QAnon News & Updates” and “Official Q / QAnon Public Group,” whose over 200,000 combined members believe the conspiracy theory that a “deep state” of federal bureaucrats, Democrats and celebrities are plotting against President Trump and his supporters, while running an international sex-trafficking ring.
  • In the groups, members frequently make antisemitic posts, theorize that the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax and speculate that the Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s death were paid for by outside actors like China, the Democrats or George Soros.
  • White supremacist and racist groups also continue to run rampant on Facebook, according to the study, where racist memes and calls to “preserve our Race” are commonplace and over 20 groups are using the name “White Lives Matter”— though “only some are full of racist or white supremacist content.”
  • Neo-Confederate and antisemitic groups with tens of thousands of members also remain uncensored on the platform, such as an antisemitic and broadly hateful private group entitled “Exposing the Rothschilds,” which has over 130,000 members. 
  • Moreover, the study notes Facebook’s recommendation feature often drives individuals toward hateful and conspiratorial groups, with 2016 internal research finding 64% of all individuals in extremist groups joined based on a suggestion from Facebook. 
  • Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
NEWS PEG
The Anti-Defamation League was one of several organizations involved in launching an advertising boycott against Facebook last month. The #StopHateForProfit campaign, encouraging the tech giant to address “hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence” that remains prevalent on the platform, quickly drew support from over 1,000 companies, including Disney, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Though the boycott was originally for the month of July, a handful of major brands opted to continue for the rest of the year pending action from Facebook.

CRUCIAL QUOTE
“We have talked to Facebook repeatedly about the problem of hateful and conspiratorial groups, and we have pointed out their particular dereliction when it comes to these types of groups,” an ADL spokesperson told Forbes. “In fact, addressing groups is one of the core recommendations of Stop Hate for Profit. We need them to take a systematic approach to address hateful and conspiratorial groups.” 

KEY BACKGROUND
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed misinformation and bigotry on the platform at a House Judiciary Committee antitrust hearing last week. Pressed on a viral video circulating misleading claims about the coronavirus, Zuckerberg said Facebook identifies and takes down 89% of hate speech before users even see it. “If your product is only 89% effective that’s a failure,” ADL CEO and Director Jonathan Greenblatt told Forbes. Facebook did institute several changes as the boycott gained traction, announcing a new team to study algorithmic bias, the release of a civil rights audit, the removal of content from hateful movements (including a number of QAnon conspiracy pages) and problematic groups and an independent audit of hate content. Nonetheless, Greenblatt said Facebook remains a “cesspool” of bigotry.

Source: ADL