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To Protect And Slur American cops have openly engaged in Islamophobia on Facebook, with no penalties Part Three

To Protect And Slur American cops have openly engaged in Islamophobia on Facebook, with no penalties Part Three
By Will Carless and Michael Corey
https://www.revealnews.org/article/american-cops-have-openly-engaged-in-islamophobia-on-facebook-with-no-penalties/

“WELL, LOOK WHO THE DEMS HAVE AS A DEPUTY CHAIR!”

The message by Richard Crites, a sheriff’s deputy in Missouri, starts off like so many political posts on Facebook. Then there’s the kicker:

“A RAGHEAD MUSLIM.”

In New Jersey, prison guard Joseph Bonadio posted repeated insults about the Prophet Muhammad and shared memes of roasting pigs with the message “Happy Ramadan.” In Georgia, retired cop Claude Stevens Jr. railed against Muslims for months, posting conspiracy theories and Islamophobic memes.

They are among dozens of current and former American law enforcement officers whom Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting identified as members of Facebook groups dedicated to Islamophobia. With names such as “Veterans Against islamic Filth,” “PURGE WORLDWIDE (The Cure for the Islamic disease in your country)” and “Americans Against Mosques,” these groups serve as private forums to share bigoted messages about Muslims, and they have proven attractive for cops.

Reveal’s yearlong investigation found police officers across the country belonging to a wide spectrum of extremist groups on Facebook, such as Confederate groups filled with racist memes and conspiracies and groups run by the anti-government militias Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Islamophobic behavior was notably brazen. While officers shared slur-filled jokes about African Americans, Latinos and the LGBTQ community behind the walls of closed groups, anti-Muslim comments often were posted on public pages for all to see.

“The problem with law enforcement officials engaging in this type of behavior is that it’s probably influencing the way in which they police in their communities,” said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at the civil rights group Muslim Advocates. “If they hold these biases towards Muslims, we’re very deeply concerned about the ways in which that manifests itself when it comes to being a first responder or being somebody who is investigating crimes against Muslims.”

The findings come as hate crimes against American Muslims continue at historically high levels. Muslim places of worship across the country have been set on fire and had their windows broken. Islamophobes have left slabs of bacon and scrawled graffiti on the doorsteps of mosques. Muslims have been shot, stabbed and had their religious garments ripped off. They’ve been shouted at, kicked, threatened and spit on.

Islamic centers and places of worship across the country also have boosted security since the horrific attacks against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, often asking local cops to stand guard during services.

Muslim Americans long have been the targets of discriminatory policing, most notably in New York City in the years after the 9/11 attacks. In 2018, the New York Police Department settled the last of three major lawsuits in which it was accused of spying on the local Muslim community for more than a decade, infiltrating mosques and creating a team of informants with the help of the CIA.

We notified nearly 150 departments about their officers’ behavior on Facebook and membership in extremist groups. Some departments launched immediate investigations, and one detective in Houston was fired for posting racist memes about African Americans, in violation of department policy.

However, other departments were unbothered by their officers’ social media activity. Some police leaders were angry that we even asked them about it.

Not a single department has said it disciplined an officer for Islamophobic posts or membership in an anti-Islam group.

‘This group is for those who wish to speak out about the evils of Islam’

We were able to identify cops in these groups by writing software to scour Facebook for connections between users who belonged to both extremist and law enforcement groups on the platform, then verifying the identities and professions of active-duty and retired officers. (Read more about our methodology here.)

Through that search, we found people such as Crites, a sworn member of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office in Missouri.

In addition to his 2018 “raghead Muslim” comment, which he used to introduce a news story about then-Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, Crites was a member of three different extremist Facebook groups, including one called “STOP OBAMA AND CRONIES : RADICAL LEFTIES, ISLAMISTS, MEDIA LIES,” which we joined. Inside the group, which was full of Islamophobic content, we saw Crites posting several times, including writing, “Stop Obama stop the Muslims.”

Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay said Crites is a volunteer deputy but carries a gun and has arrest powers. Asked about Crites’ activity on Facebook, DeLay said he’s never heard any concerns from the community about his deputy’s work.

“I’m looking at disciplinary records now, and there aren’t any complaints,” he said.

DeLay wouldn’t provide us with those records, and Crites didn’t respond to numerous calls for comment.

Joseph Bonadio is a senior corrections officer for the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He also was a member of a group called “Infidel Brotherhood Worldwide.”

Islamophobic groups often use the word “infidel” as a dog whistle to attract people with similar views on Islam. Facebook is full of “infidel” groups, including “Any islamist insults infidels, I will put him under my feet,” “The Infidel Den – Anti Islam Coalition” and “Infidel Elite – Against Islam, by the Pen and/or Sword,” all of which count law enforcement officers as members.

Inside these groups, members often traffic in disproven theories that Muslims are invading the United States and plan to impose Sharia law and that this “Muslimification” already has happened across much of Europe.

Often, though, members just express their disgust with a religion practiced by about a quarter of the world’s population.

“The rabies that is islam being passed down from deluded parent to deluded and brainwashed child,” reads a typical civilian comment in “Infidel Brotherhood Worldwide.”

Bonadio, who works at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, a prison in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, hasn’t actually posted in the group. Instead, he posted openly anti-Muslim content on his public Facebook wall:

1. “Known fact Jesus is better then (sic) goat FUCKER Muhammad,” he posted in 2015.

2. “I love the smell of bacon on Ramadan … Smells like America,” reads a meme he posted in May, at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

3. “Happy Ramadan,” he posted the same day, captioning a photo of a pig being roasted over a barbecue.

In addition to posting anti-Muslim content, Bonadio poked fun at the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people. He also has posted memes more than once that depict former first lady Michelle Obama as a man and questioned whether white Americans should be blamed for bringing slavery to the country.

After we sent screenshots of Bonadio’s Facebook activity to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, a spokesperson sent the following statement: “We are aware of the allegations referenced. These allegations will be investigated and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, if warranted.”

Bonadio did not respond to a call for comment.

Many working police officers were careful to hide their identities on Facebook, using pseudonyms, not listing their place of work or sometimes claiming to work in nonexistent jobs. An officer in Chicago, for example, listed his job as “Bent Over at City of Chicago.” Several cops used variations of their real names, such as Texas State Trooper Kevin Lashlee, who called himself “KD Lash” on Facebook and posted in a group containing racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content.

But retired law enforcement officers were far more brazen.

Claude Stevens Jr., who retired from the Waynesboro Police Department in Georgia in 2015, since has joined at least six closed anti-Muslim groups, including “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER” and another named “Rage against the veil.”

Stevens’ personal Facebook page was awash with anti-Islamic memes, and he’s actively commented in at least two of the closed groups. For example, he wrote under a video of Islamic immigrants in Germany, “The Prophet Muhammad eat’s (sic) dog shit and is a follower of Satan/Allah” in March 2017.

When reached for comment, Stevens initially was defensive of his views. He called Islam “evil” and said America needs to be extremely wary of Muslim immigrants, who he claims seek to impose Sharia law in a Christian nation. However, he claimed that as a police officer, he always treated people fairly, no matter what their religion.

Asked how he could treat all people equally while at the same time posting about how Muslims are “filthy” and “animals,” he paused and said: “I would have to concede to you that I probably have to back off on my words and look at it differently.”

As a transit officer with the New York Police Department, John Intranuovo policed a city that’s home to more than 600,000 Muslims. Now that he’s retired, he has used a group called “Stop the War on Christianity and White America” to rail against Muslims.

Intranuovo had a simple reaction to a post about former President Barack Obama endorsing Amir Malik of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who was seeking election to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2018. “No muslims,” he wrote. In another comment, Intranuovo called Muslims “evil people.”

Intranuovo also was a member of two more anti-Muslim Facebook groups: “The Infidel Den – Anti Islam Coalition” and “THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN INFIDELS,“ neither of which allowed us to join, but both of which contained openly anti-Islam sentiment in their public descriptions.

“This group is for those who wish to speak out about the evils of Islam. All members of this group want Islam removed from America,” reads the public description for “THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN INFIDELS,” which can be viewed by anybody on Facebook.

‘These are law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect us’

Earlier this year, Facebook announced a big push against hate speech.

As part of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to turn around the social media behemoth, Facebook first promised to ban white nationalist and white supremacist content, then followed up by ousting several prominent purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric, including Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer. But anyone hoping these moves would mark an end to widespread hate speech on the platform was disappointed.

Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in North Carolina who tracks hate groups on Facebook, frequently reports such groups and content to moderators. She said the social media platform acts only on reports of hateful speech, rather than proactively searching for content that violates policy. And even when groups and content are reported, Squire said, Facebook traditionally has been more accepting of “politicized hate” against Islam – that is, groups claiming to protest not Islam itself, but “radical Islam” or “creeping Sharia law.” Inside these groups, we found, slurs and hateful comments most often were directed at all Muslims in a blanket fashion.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, on April 30 in San Jose, Calif. CREDIT: Tony Avelar/Associated Press

“This horrifies me,” said Qasim Rashid, an attorney and author of several books on the Muslim experience in the United States. “These are law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect us. If a guy is in a group on Facebook called ‘Death to Islam’ or ‘Purge Islam as a disease,’ and they’re patrolling our neighborhoods and streets, then who are they really protecting?”

He said tropes linking Islam with terrorism or suggesting that Muslims plan to “take over” countries are unfair and misguided from the start.

“Terrorism has no religion. We’ve seen plenty of examples of so-called Christians who have committed mass shootings,” Rashid said. “If I started a page about ‘radical Christianity’ and started demonizing every Christian out there as a suspected ‘radical Christianist,’ I would be rightfully mocked and ridiculed and called a bigot.”

In a year of studying extremist groups on Facebook, we noticed how groups have adapted to content moderation practices on the platform. Openly racist groups such as those connected to the Ku Klux Klan don’t last very long on the site. The racist groups that survive have adopted the coded language typical of the alt-right movement or disguised themselves as Confederate history groups.

By contrast, Islamophobic groups are transparent in their intentions and even in their names. While in recent months Facebook has removed groups tied to white nationalist organizations such as the Proud Boys – like the group “Proud Boys Southern Chapter” – the social network continues to host groups that are openly hostile to Muslims, such as “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.” Every day, users post hateful content in these groups, often pledging violence against American Muslims.

Facebook denies treating anti-Muslim hate, in whatever guise, differently from other forms of hate speech.

“Our policies against extremist content/organized hate groups are longstanding. Our Community Standards are clear that we don’t allow hate groups to maintain a presence on Facebook,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.

Ahussain said Muslim Advocates is just one of many advocacy groups pushing Facebook and other social media companies to take hate speech more seriously.

“Facebook provides a platform and a space where people feel like they can say these things,” she said.

That’s particularly true when it comes to hate speech directed against Muslims, Squire said. Islamophobia on Facebook can be a gateway to other forms of intolerance, she said.

The majority of U.S. hate crimes motivated by religious bias are anti-Semitic, and Reveal’s investigation found plenty of anti-Semitic activity in private groups. But the public nature of the Islamophobic activity on the platform resonates with Squire’s observation from years of monitoring Facebook: that anti-Muslim hate speech is “the last accepted form of bigotry in America.”

Researchers Daneel Knoetze and Michael Dailey contributed to this story. It was edited by Andrew Donohue and Matt Thompson.

Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org, and Michael Corey can be reached at mcorey@revealnews.org. Follow Carless on Twitter: @willcarless.

Amid The Pandemic, U.S. Militia Groups Plot ‘The Boogaloo,’ AKA Civil War, On Facebook

Amid The Pandemic, U.S. Militia Groups Plot ‘The Boogaloo,’ AKA Civil War, On Facebook
Extremists are promoting anti-government violence on Facebook during the coronavirus pandemic. The social media giant appears to be doing little about it.
By Christopher Mathais
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/boogaloo-facebook-pages-coronavirus-militia-group-extremists_n_5ea3072bc5b6d376358eba98

A local militia group is seen at a rally to protest a stay-at-home order in Columbus, Ohio, on April 20. The man in the cente
A local militia group is seen at a rally to protest a stay-at-home order in Columbus, Ohio, on April 20. The man in the center is wearing a “boogaloo” patch.

Thousands of armed right-wing militants are plotting a violent uprising against the U.S. government during the coronavirus crisis, a new report finds, and Facebook is providing them a platform to prepare and organize. 

A report published Thursday by the watchdog group the Tech Transparency Project found 125 Facebook groups devoted to the idea of the “boogaloo,” a far-right term used to describe what they believe is an inevitable civil war in the U.S. Members discuss weapons, combat medicine, and how to develop explosives, the report says. One group even shared a document detailing how to disrupt U.S. government supply lines and discussing the possible need to assassinate government officials. 

These groups have proliferated during the pandemic, according to the report, as right-wing extremists grow more agitated over lockdown orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, measures many militia and “patriot” groups view as the oppressive maneuverings of a tyrannical government. 

Over 60% of the groups were created in just the last three months, according to the report. The 125 groups have nearly 73,000 members, though it’s unclear how many individuals may belong to multiple groups. 

About 50% of the groups’ members have joined within the last 30 days. 

The groups have flourished despite Facebook community guidelines that prohibit facilitating, organizing or promoting “harmful activities targeted at people.” The guidelines also ban “statements of intent to commit high-severity violence.”

Daniel E. Stevens, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, the umbrella organization under which TTP operates, told HuffPost in a statement Thursday that “Facebook’s failure to stop their platform from being used as an organizing tool for extremists is completely unacceptable.” 

“There is nothing subtle about how these extremist groups are using Facebook’s platform to advance their cause,” Stevens said. “Boogaloo proponents are not simply discussing ideas or political views; they are directly advocating for violent action and tactically planning how to defeat government entities.”

There are 125 anti-government extremist groups on Facebook devoted to the "boogaloo," a far-right term for what they believe
There are 125 anti-government extremist groups on Facebook devoted to the “boogaloo,” a far-right term for what they believe is a coming civil war. The groups have proliferated during the coronavirus crisis.
A meme posted to the Facebook page of a group devoted to the “boogaloo,” a far-right term used to describe a coming civil war
A meme posted to the Facebook page of a group devoted to the “boogaloo,” a far-right term used to describe a coming civil war.

In a statement to HuffPost Thursday, a Facebook spokesperson claimed the company is aware of the boogaloo groups.  

“We’ve removed groups and Pages who’ve used this and related terms for violating our policies,” the spokesperson said.

None of the handful of boogaloo groups specifically named in TTP’s report summary had been taken down as of Friday morning. 

“We’re reviewing the content referenced in this report and will enforce against any violations,” the Facebook spokesperson said. 

The potential for real-world violence by these groups came into focus earlier this week, when an Arkansas boogaloo enthusiast named Aaron Swenson live-streamed himself on Facebook driving around Texarkana, Texas, allegedly looking for a police officer to shoot and kill. 

Comments left on the livestream showed some users endorsing attacking police officers. Other users suggested people call 911. Swenson was eventually arrested, according to the local police department. 

A review of his Facebook page by TTP found that he “liked” over a dozen boogaloo pages, including a prominent boogaloo page called the Thicc Boog Line. 

A series of extremist Facebook pages "liked" by Aaron Swenson, who was arrested for allegedly attempting to attack police off
A series of extremist Facebook pages “liked” by Aaron Swenson, who was arrested for allegedly attempting to attack police officers in Texas.

After HuffPost’s inquiry Thursday, Facebook appears to have removed Swenson’s profile page. 

Facebook studies and monitors new terms, including boogaloo, which extremists may use to mask their activities, the Facebook spokesperson insisted, adding that the company has 350 people on staff devoted to stopping people and organizations from using its platform to plot or engage in violence. 

The pandemic is proving to be a fraught period for the social media giant, as it struggles to slow the spread of misinformation about the virus that could put people in danger. 

Facebook recently banned some pages and posts promoting anti-lockdown protests in California, New Jersey and Nebraska that defied “government’s guidance on social distancing.” 

Many such protests, however, have still been organized on the platform, resulting in crowds of right-wingers not observing social distancing guidelines descending upon government buildings, demanding that lawmakers reopen local and state economies despite the desperate warnings of public health experts. 

TTP also infiltrated private boogaloo groups on Facebook where pages promoting anti-lockdown events were shared and attendance was encouraged, including a page for an April 24 protest in Wisconsin. 

Heavily armed militiamen, some of whom have carried boogaloo signs or worn boogaloo patches, have appeared at previous anti-lockdown rallies. 

“This is not a case of extremists outsmarting Facebook,” Stevens, of the Campaign for Accountability, told HuffPost in his statement. “By allowing these pages to exist, Facebook is demonstrating a clear unwillingness to protect the public from possible domestic terrorists. Unless Facebook takes substantive action to break up these dangerous online communities, there is a very real risk of violence spilling out into the streets.”

A screengrab from one of the "boogaloo" groups.
A screengrab from one of the “boogaloo” groups.

The boogaloo groups are part of a larger anti-government extremist movement in the U.S., which includes militia and “patriot” organizations such as the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters, whose adherents have been implicated in bombings, murders and armed standoffs with federal law enforcement. 

There is sometimes overlap between anti-government and white supremacist movements. TTP’s analysis of the boogaloo groups found that some members’ profiles include white supremacist content, including images of Adolf Hitler. Many other group members, however, claimed to reject white supremacist ideology.

TTP says it identified the 125 groups in its report by searching for different variations or abbreviations of “boogaloo,” such as “boog,” “big igloo,” “Big Luau,” and “boojihadeen.” 

One group, “BoojieBastards: Intelligence and Surveillance,” has averaged 100 new members a day since its creation in February, and now boasts some 6,500 followers. 

The largest group, the Thicc Boog Line, has gained about 30,000 followers since its creation in October 2019. Its main page is public and is often used to hawk boogaloo-branded clothing and accessories. The Thicc Boog Line also operates 11 private boogaloo groups that more explicitly discuss preparing for the coming civil war. 

About 89% of the groups identified in TTP’s report, or 112, are set to private. Many take their war preparations so seriously that members are banned from posting memes, so as the discussion stays focused on intelligence sharing. 

“The groups engage in national-level coordination or act as state and local chapters where users share tactical information and survival tips, ranging from topographic map access to instructions for evading authorities,” the report states. 

Perhaps most concerning are the planning documents members upload to the boogaloo groups which, according to TTP, include military manuals, a CIA handbook, and “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a famous bomb building guide. 

Another alarming, 133-page document entitled “Yeetalonians” spells out what weapons should be used for the boogaloo and instructs members how to develop propaganda to win over others to their cause. 

A screenshot from “Yeetalonians,” which spells out what weapons should be used for the boogaloo.
A screenshot from “Yeetalonians,” which spells out what weapons should be used for the boogaloo.

The document discusses how “national guard depots, police stations and factories that produce munitions are all very solid targets” for disrupting the U.S. government supply chain.

It emphasizes to members that it’s deeply important “to make the enemy (government forces) see that they are not fighting terrorists, they are fighting their own countrymen who simply love liberty.”

The “Yeetalonian” document also mentions “target selection,” arguing that while assassinations of public officials and figureheads are often “overrated” as a military strategy, “some people have to go.”

Report: Over 100 Militant Hate Groups Have Been Promoting Second Civil War on Facebook

Report: Over 100 Militant Hate Groups Have Been Promoting Second Civil War on Facebook
By Whitney Kimball
https://gizmodo.com/report-over-100-militant-groups-have-been-promoting-se-1843051231

Image: Matt Marshall, a leader of the Three Percenters militia movement, wearing the boogaloo Hawaiian shirt uniform at an anti-quarantine protest in Olympia, Washington (Getty)

God help us if Mark Zuckerberg’s next congressional hearing is on the subject of the Bloody Insurrection of 2020. As HuffPost first reported, a scourge of far-right extremist accounts on Facebook appear to be gearing up for a meme-inspired civil war amid the covid-19 outbreak.

The Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a research group focused on exposing large platforms’ misconduct and influence, released a report finding that 125 Facebook groups are promoting the “boogaloo,” a term far-right groups use to refer to a wishful Civil War sequel. The boogaloo appears to have mutated from a joking 4chan meme into a real-life movement of militiamen (“Boojihadeens”) late last year. But the TTP found a surge in boogaloo interest over the past few months, correlating with social distancing measures. According to the report, over 60 percent of the Facebook groups cropped up in the past three months and, as a whole, have attracted over 36,000 members in the last 30 days.

In a statement to Gizmodo Friday night, a Facebook spokesperson said that the company has “removed groups and Pages who’ve used this and related terms for violating our policies.” “We’re reviewing the content referenced in this report and will enforce against any violations,” they added. On Monday morning, dozens of boogaloo-themed pages, including ones mentioned in the TTP report, were still accessible on the platform.

Boogaloo promoters have been attending anti-quarantine protests, events with ties to pro-gun activists. The report says that the Boojahideen have been hearing dog whistles from the president lately, greeting his “LIBERATE” tweets with cheers. “TTP found that some members of private boogaloo Facebook groups reacted to the president’s rhetoric with memes of celebration,” it reads, “and traded details of anti-quarantine protests in Richmond, Virginia, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.”

Illustration for article titled Report: Over 100 Militant Groups Have Been Promoting Second Civil War on Facebook [Updated]
Image: A Facebook post noting that a boogaloo patch was spotted at an Ohio anti-quarantine protest (Tech Transparency Project)

In total, these Facebook groups boast 72,686 members, although the report did not verify how many members overlap between groups. One merch page, the Thicc Boog Line, admins at least 11 other boogaloo groups.

The vast majority are private, TTP notes. One post screenshot grabbed by TTP crowdsources tips on homemade explosives. It begins:

Let’s talk grenades, flash bangs, and other things you can throw at the enemy. Let’s just say that you didn’t want to get the paperwork in order to possess certain things that go boom or can act as a room clearer/stunner.

Is there anything you can buy to make your own flash bangs?

Illustration for article titled Report: Over 100 Militant Groups Have Been Promoting Second Civil War on Facebook [Updated]
Image: Tech Transparency Project

The report suggests this isn’t just casual dabbling in violent fantasies. The groups have uploaded CIA handbooks, military manuals, and the bomb assembly manual “The Anarchist Cookbook.” One 133-page-plus planning document reviewed by the TTP reportedly identifies strongholds like “national guard depots, police stations, and factories that produce munitions” as “very solid targets” and proposes taking out rail lines and ports to “sabotage shipments.” The TTP found that one Arkansas fan of several boogaloo pages was arrested earlier this month after allegedly livestreaming a hunt to kill a police officer on Facebook Live.

Illustration for article titled Report: Over 100 Militant Groups Have Been Promoting Second Civil War on Facebook [Updated]
Image: Screengrab from the over-133 page boogaloo preparation document titled “Yeetalonians” (Tech Transparency Project)

Boogaloo advocates reportedly include Matt Marshall, a leader of the militia group Three Percenters, named for the disputed belief that only three percent of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Marshall suggested that followers wear the Hawaiian shirt, the mark of the Boojahideen, to anti-quarantine protests.

Slides included in the report also outline a propaganda strategy proposing that boogaloo insurgents stick to Revolutionary War-related emblems such as the Gadsden flag, rather than anarchism emblems, which the media will portray as “black and scary.”

YouTube is also culpable. As of this writing, “Top 5 Boogaloo Guns”—a guide to firearms posted on April 15th by a user with 2.35 million subscribers—remains live with over 300,000 views. “The idea being that a boogaloo is something really bad happens, it’s a tyrannical government,” the narrator, in a Hawaiian shirt, explains, “and you’ve gotta take to the streets and take care of business, protect your family, protect your neighborhood, protect your citizens.” He proceeds to review a semi-automatic version of an FN SCAR assault rifle (which, he remarks, has been a popular item at recent unnamed rallies).

YouTube told Gizmodo that “we have strict policies regarding content featuring firearms, and quickly remove content that violates those policies when flagged by our users,” but added that the boogaloo video doesn’t violate their firearms content guidelines.

Facebook was made aware of the boogaloo activity in February, the report notes, after NBC reached out to the company and received the following response:

We’ve been studying trends around this and related terms on Facebook and Instagram. We don’t allow speech used to incite hate or violence, and will remove any content that violates our policies. We’ll continue to monitor this across our platform.

Updated: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook and YouTube.

Correction: 4/17/20, 8:50 a.m. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a semi-automatic weapon as an “automatic assault rifle.” It has been corrected above and we regret the error.

White Supremacist Groups Are Thriving on Facebook Report 14 Page Report

Facebook says hate groups aren’t allowed on the platform. But white supremacists are using the social network to build their movement.

Dozens of white supremacist groups are operating freely on Facebook, allowing them to spread their message and recruit new members, according to a Tech Transparency Project (TTP) investigation, which found the activity is continuing despite years of promises by the social network that it bans hate organizations.

TTP recently documented how online extremists, including many with white supremacist views, are using Facebook to plan for a militant uprising dubbed the “boogaloo,” as they stoke fears that coronavirus lockdowns are a sign of rising government repression.1 But TTP’s latest investigation reveals Facebook’s broader problems with white supremacist groups, which are using the social network’s unmatched reach to build their movement.

The findings, more than two years after Facebook hosted an event page for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, cast doubt on the company’s claims that it’s effectively monitoring and dealing with hate groups.

What’s more, Facebook’s algorithms create an echo chamber that reinforces the views of white supremacists and helps them connect with each other.

With millions of people now quarantining at home and vulnerable to ideologies that seek to exploit people’s fears and resentments about Covid-19, Facebook’s failure to remove white supremacist groups could give these organizations fertile new ground to attract followers.
Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit hate speech based on race, ethnicity, and other factors because it “creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.” The company also bans hate organizations.3 Since the Charlottesville violence, Facebook has announced the removal of specific hate groups and tightened restrictions on white extremist content on the platform.

“We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in April 2018. “So, if — if there’s a group that — their primary purpose or — or a large part of what they do is spreading hate, we will ban them from the platform, overall.”

The analysis found:

• Of the 221 designated white supremacist organizations, more than half—51%, or 113 groups—had a presence on Facebook.

• Those organizations are associated with a total of 153 Facebook Pages and four Facebook Groups. Roughly one third of the organizations (34) had two or more Pages or Groups on Facebook. Some had Pages that have been active on the platform for a decade.

• Many of the white supremacist Pages identified by TTP were created by Facebook itself. Facebook auto-generated them as business pages when someone listed a white supremacist or neo-Nazi organization as their employer.

• Facebook’s “Related Pages” feature often directed users visiting white supremacist Pages to other extremist or far-right content, raising concerns that the platform is contributing to radicalization.

• One of Facebook’s strategies for combatting extremism—redirecting users who search for terms associated with white supremacy or hate groups to the Page for “Life After Hate,” an organization that promotes tolerance—only worked in 6% (14) of the 221 searches for white supremacist organizations.

• In addition to the hate groups designated by SPLC and ADL, TTP found white supremacist organizations that Facebook had explicitly banned in the past. One known as “Right Wing Death Squad” had at least three Pages on Facebook, all created prior to Facebook’s ban.

Facebook is Creating Pages for Hate Groups

TTP examined the Facebook presence of 221 hate groups affiliated with white supremacy. The groups were identified via the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Hate Symbols Database and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) 2019 Hate Map, an annual census of hate groups operating in the U.S.5

TTP used ADL’s glossary of white supremacist terms and movements to identify relevant groups in the Hate Symbols Database. With the SPLC Hate Map, TTP used the 2019 map categories of Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, neo-völkisch, racist skinhead, and white nationalist to identify relevant groups.6 Of the 221 groups identified by TTP, 21 were listed in both the ADL and SPLC databases.

TTP found that 51% (113) of the organizations examined had a presence on Facebook in the form of Pages or Groups. Of the 113 hate groups with a presence, 34 had two or more associated Pages on Facebook, resulting in a total of 153 individual Pages and four individual Groups.

Roughly 36% (52 Facebook Pages and four Facebook Groups) of the content identified was created by users. One user-generated Page for a group designated as white nationalist by SPLC had more than 42,000 “likes” on Facebook and has been active since 2010.7

The remaining 64% of the white supremacist content identified by TTP involved Pages that had been auto-generated by Facebook. These Pages are automatically created by Facebook when a user lists a job in their profile that does not have an existing Page. When a user lists their work position as “Universal Aryan Brotherhood Movement,” for instance, Facebook generates a business page for that group.

This auto-generation problem has existed for some time.In April 2019, an anonymous whistleblower filed a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) petition regarding extremism on the platform and Facebook’s practice of auto-generating business pages for terrorist and white supremacist groups. Some of these Facebook-generated Pages gained thousands of “likes,” giving a way for the groups to identify potential recruits, according to the whistleblower.

One of the auto-generated hate group Pages with the most “likes” in TTP’s analysis was for the Council of Conservative Citizens, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group. The group made headlines in 2015 after an online manifesto linked to white supremacist Dylann Roof referenced the organization; Roof opened fire at a historically black church in South Carolina, killing nine people. Facebook’s auto-generated Page for the Council of Conservative Citizens included a description of the group’s white supremacist affiliations, complete with a direct link to their website.

Facebook’s role creating Pages for organizations like these undermines claims by the company that it bars hate groups.

“Our rules have always been clear that white supremacists are not allowed on our platform under any circumstances,” said Neil Potts, Facebook public policy director

Related Pages: Facebook’s Extremist Echo Chamber

The TTP review highlights flaws in Facebook’s content moderation system, which relies heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and Facebook users to report problematic content to human moderators for review.

Relying on users to identify objectionable material doesn’t work well when the platform is designed to connect users with shared ideologies, experts have noted, since white supremacists are unlikely to object to racist content they see on Facebook. “A lot of Facebook’s moderation revolves around users flagging content. When you have this kind of vetting process, you don’t run the risk of getting thrown off Facebook,” according to SPLC research analyst Keegan Hankes.

Artificial intelligence, which Facebook has touted for years as the solution to identifying and removing bad content, also has limitations when it comes to hate speech.

AI can miss deliberate misspellings; manipulation of words to include numbers, symbols, and emojis; and missing spaces in sentences. Neo-Nazis, for example, have managed to avoid detection through simple measures like replacing “S” with “$.”

At the same time, Facebook’s algorithms can create an echo chamber of white supremacism through its “Related Pages” feature, which suggests similar Pages to keep users engaged on a certain topic.

TTP’s investigation found that among the 113 hate groups that had a Facebook presence, 77 of them had Pages that displayed Related Pages, often pointing people to other extremist or right-wing content. In some cases, the Related Pages directed users to additional SPLC- or ADL-designated hate groups.

For example, TTP found that the user-generated Page for Nazi Low Riders, an ADL-listed hate group, showed Related Pages for other groups associated with white supremacy. The top recommendation was another user-generated Page called “Aryanbrotherhood.” (By omitting the space between the two words, the Page may have been trying to evade Facebook’s AI systems, as discussed above.) The Aryan Brotherhood is “the oldest and most notorious racist prison gang in the United States,” according to ADL.

The Aryanbrotherhood Facebook Page in turn displayed Related Pages for more white supremacist ideologies, some of them making reference to “peckerwoods,” a term associated with racist prison and street gangs.

The Related Pages listed on the user-generated Page of American Freedom Union, an SPLC designated white nationalist group, included a link to a Page for the book “White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.” The book was authored by Jared Taylor, who runs the website for American Renaissance, another SPLC-designated white nationalist group.

Facebook’s algorithms even pick up on links between organizations that may not be obvious to others. For example, the auto-generated Page for Sacto Skins, a short form of the SPLCdesignated racist hate group Sacto Skinheads, included a Related Page recommendation for Embassy of Russia in the United States. A recent investigation by The New York Times found that Russian intelligence services are using Facebook and other social media to try to incite white supremacists ahead of the 2020 election.

This web of white supremacist Pages surfaced by Facebook’s algorithms is not new. The nonprofit Counter Extremism Project, in a 2018 report about far-right groups on Facebook, identified multiple white supremacist and far-right Pages by following the Related Pages feature.

Banned Groups Persist

Facebook’s Community Standards have included rules against hate speech for years, but in the past three years the company has expanded its efforts.

One significant change came quietly in 2017, following mounting reports about white supremacist activity on Facebook. The company didn’t publicly announce a policy change, but the Internet Archive shows that in mid-July, it added “organized hate groups” to the “Dangerous Organizations” section of its Community Standards. The company did not, however, specify how it would define such hate groups.

Despite the policy update, Facebook didn’t immediately take down an event page for the “Unite the Right” rally, which SPLC had tied to neo-Nazis. According to one media report, Facebook only pulled the listing the day before the rally, in which one woman was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a white supremacist drove into a crowd of counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

Amid the ensuing public outcry, Facebook announced removals of a number of hate groups including White Nationalists United and Right Wing Death Squad.

Facebook scrambled again in early 2019 following the Christchurch attack, in which a gunman used Facebook to stream the massacre of 51 people at a pair of mosques in New Zealand. As the killings made headlines around the world, the company said it would ban “white nationalist” content along with the previously banned category of white supremacism. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also said a handful of hate groups in Australia and New Zealand would be banned.

Two months after the New Zealand attack, however, BuzzFeed News found that extremist groups Facebook claimed to have banned were still on the platform. Later that year, The Guardian identified multiple white nationalist Pages on Facebook but said the company “declined to take action against any of the pages identified.” Online extremism expert Megan Squire told BuzzFeed, “Facebook likes to make a PR move and say that they’re doing something but they don’t always follow up on that.”
Research suggests there continues to be a gap between Facebook’s public relations responses and the company’s enforcement of its own policies. A recent report by TTP found that videos of the Christchurch attack continued to circulate on the platform a year later, despite Facebook’s vow to remove them.

Since 2017, Facebook announced removals of at least 14 white supremacist and white nationalist groups in the U.S. and Canada, according to media reports. (Only one of these groups, Vanguard America, is included in the TTP’s review of 221 white supremacist groups named by the SPLC and ADL.) Of the 14 groups, four continue to have an active presence on Facebook: Awakening Red Pill, Wolves of Odin, Right Wing Death Squad, and Physical Removal.

TTP identified three user-generated Pages for Right Wing Death Squad that are currently active on Facebook. All three Pages identified by TTP were created before the Unite the Right rally and were never removed by Facebook.

The Right Wing Death Squad Pages include extremist language as well as references to the “boogaloo,” the term used by extremists to reference a coming civil war. Some of the Right Wing Death Squad Pages brand themselves as anti-globalist, a term often considered a dog whistle for anti-Semitism.

In March 2020, Facebook announced the removal of a network of white supremacists linked to the Northwest Front, an SPLC-designated hate group that has been called “the worst racists” in America.42 Facebook’s director of counterterrorism Brian Fishman said the action came after the group, which had been banned for years, tried to “reestablish a presence” on the platform. TTP, however, found that the auto-generated Page for Northwest Front was not removed and that searches for the group’s name on Facebook still fail to trigger the company’s re-direct effort to Life After Hate.

Facebook also said it removed a network of accounts linked to VDARE, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group, and individuals associated with a similar website called The Unz Review, in April 2020.

Facebook said the group had engaged in “suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election,” and described VDARE’s anti-immigrant focus without mentioning its link to white nationalism. According to Facebook, the network spent a total of $114,000 on advertising through the platform.

As with the action against the Northwest Front, Facebook failed to remove the auto-generated VDARE Page. Clicking on the Page’s link to the VDARE website generates a notice that states, “The link you tried to visit goes against our Community Standards.” Still, it is unclear why Facebook allows the auto-generated Page to stay up when it acknowledges the group violates its Community Standards.

Failing to Direct Away from Hate

As part of Facebook’s expanded efforts to combat white supremacy on the platform following the Christchurch attack, the company said in March 2019 that it would re-direct users who search for terms related to hate.

“Searches for terms associated with white supremacy will surface a link to Life After Hate’s Page, where people can find support in the form of education, interventions, academic research and outreach,” the company announced.49

TTP found that not only did Facebook’s anti-hate link fail to surface in the majority of hate group searches, but in some cases, the platform directed users to other white supremacist Pages.

TTP conducted a search for each of the 221 hate groups associated with white supremacy and white nationalism listed by SPLC and ADL. Only 6% of the searches (14 groups) surfaced the link to Life After Hate.
One factor may be that not all of the hate groups listed by SPLC and ADL make their ideologies obvious in their names. But even organizations that have “Nazi” or “Ku Klux Klan” in their names escaped the redirect effort. Of 25 groups with “Ku Klux Klan” in their official name, only one triggered the link to anti-hate resources.

The redirect tool even failed to work on groups that Facebook has explicitly banned. TTP used Facebook’s search function to search the names of the 14 white supremacist groups in North America that Facebook said it had banned. The Proud Boys were the only one of the groups to trigger the platform’s Life After Hate link.

Facebook began removing accounts and pages linked to the far-right Proud Boys in October 2018 after members of the group clashed with anti-fascist protestors. Searches for the group today generate Facebook’s Life After Hate link, and TTP did not find any official Proud Boys Pages on the platform.

But the Facebook search for Proud Boys did bring up a Page for “Proud to be a White American,” which describes itself as being for “The promotion of white initiatives and white causes.” (Notably, the “Proud to be a White American” Page is listed above a Page called “Proud Boys” that does not appear to be affiliated with the far-right group.)