Facebook is helping Islamic terrorists connect with one another, according to two British researchers who have studied the social media giant.
“This project has laid bare Facebook’s inability or unwillingness to efficiently address extremist content on their site,” said Gregory Waters of the Counter Extremism Project, one of the authors of the study, according to a report in the Telegraph.
“The failure to effectively police its platform has allowed Facebook to become a place where extensive (Islamic State) supporting networks exist, propaganda is disseminated, people are radicalized and new supporters are recruited,” he said.
Waters and fellow researcher Robert Postings examined the Facebook activity of 1,000 Islamic State supporters in 96 countries. They said that terrorists were often introduced to one another through Facebook’s “suggested friends” feature.
Postings said that after clicking on news accounts of the Islamic uprising in the Philippines, he received a vast number of friend suggestions connecting him with extremists in that part of the world.
“Facebook, in their desire to connect as many people as possible, have inadvertently created a system which helps connect extremists and terrorists,” he said.
“Removing profiles that disseminate (Islamic State) propaganda, calls for attacks and otherwise support the group is important. … The fact that the majority of pro-IS profiles in this database have gone unremoved by Facebook is exceptionally concerning,” Postings added.
The researchers said that Facebook needs to better police itself.
“Even when profiles or content is removed, it is not always done fast enough, allowing (Islamic State) content to be to be widely share and viewed before getting removed,” Postings said.
“The fact that Facebook’s own recommended friends algorithm is directly facilitating the spread of this terrorist group on its site is beyond unacceptable,” Waters added.
British lawmaker Simon Hart said Facebook needs to step up to the challenge.
“The idea that Facebook is inadvertently providing an introduction service for terrorists is quite extraordinary. It is another terrifying example of the unintended consequences of this sort of technology,” he said. “If you design a system for one thing and it becomes another it is hard to police. Nobody will have set out to provide a network for terrorists to connect, but the important thing is how Facebook responds now this matter has been raised with them.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that technology giants must do more, and do it faster, to counter terrorists’ use of social media.
“Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead,” according to remarks prepared for May to deliver at a meeting between European governments and technology giants, CBS reported.
“Industry needs to go further and faster in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online, and developing technological solutions which prevent it being uploaded in the first place. This is a global problem that transcends national interests,” May said in her prepared remarks.
Facebook has said it is working to catch up.
Reuters reported that Facebook last week said that during the first three months of this year, it had either taken down or put warning labels on 1.9 million pieces of content that were related to either the Islamic State or al-Qaida.
In a Facebook blog, the company said its monitors, not users, were responsible for most of the terrorists’ content being removed.
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