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How Zuckerberg Supports ISIS: Facebook’s Dark Side Revealed

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USA – May 31, 2018

The Counter Extremism Project’s (CEP) new 90-page report, Spiders of the Caliphate: Mapping the Islamic State’s Global Support Network on Facebook, details how ISIS followers continue to exploit Facebook to host meetings, link to terrorist propaganda, and organize on the popular social media platform. The report finds Islamic terror groups are growing their online presence, reaching out to billions of people worldwide through platforms like Facebook.

According to the report, ISIS ideologists are ramping up the use of social media platforms to get their message out to the world. CEP experts found the Islamic state is particularly focusing on growing its presence on Facebook in a pervasive and professionalized fashion.

CEP Senior Advisor and Dartmouth College Computer Science Professor Dr. Hany Farid says, “When we have videos of child pornography, when we have videos of beheading, when we have calls to violence, glorification of violence - those clearly range from the illegal to clear and unambiguous violations of the Terms of Service. So my view of the situation is that the platform has been more reactive than proactive.”

The analyst said ISIS is using Facebook to radicalize recruits into terrorizing people across the globe, while the social media giant’s response to such malign activities has been subdued at best.

Facebook is the most popular social networking site in both the US and Europe both of which now find themselves in the midst of a mass migration crisis that brings in hundreds of thousands of uneducated, low-skilled individuals who are oftentimes deprived of basic right individuals. And Islamic ideologists have been specifically reaching out to such migrants, capitalizing on their sense of insecurity and alienation in the face of an unfamiliar societal environment. The CEP points this out: ISIS is rapidly growing its Facebook community in Latin America, specifically in the countries that send hundreds of thousands of migrants to the US, where these people form a highly volatile underclass of menial labor.

James Hughes, Chief Market Analyst from AxiTrader, says, “Facebook is open to any sort of criticism you want, but they are the leading lights, and they can really push this and manipulate this in any way they want to.”

CEP report primarily focuses on the threat of immediate terror attacks or other terror-related activities, potentially resulting from the Islamic state's propaganda on Facebook. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as the ongoing spread of Islamic ideology poses more serious long-term effects to societies in North America, Europe and other parts of the civilized world. Facebook along with other social networks have been instrumental in glorifying ideologies and behaviors beyond those associated with radical Islam, such as the far-left violence and attacks against free speech, carried out by globalized direct action groups.

Safe home for virtual caliphate.

Facebook profiles are often used to spread propaganda, and there are Facebook pages and groups dedicated to the spread of terrorist propaganda. These groups and pages also provide places for IS supporters to meet other users who share their views and discuss extremist-related topics. CEP documented one particularly prominent group of American IS supporters that holds weekly discussions over Facebook Live where they discuss how to avoid detection from the FBI and ways they can help the “virtual caliphate.” Additionally, one of the earliest American IS fighters in Syria, Abdullah Ramo Pazara, used Facebook to fundraise, coordinate the shipments of supplies to him, share information about fighting in Syria, and even recruit foreign fighters to join IS in Syria.

Islamic ideologists are also using Facebook's feature called “suggested friends” along with the targeted advertising based on Facebook data harvesting in order to find supporters for the radical Islamic course. Additionally, Islamic propaganda finds its audience amongst critics of Israel as well as the followers of leftist narratives of racialization and politicization of the economic and social problems in Western countries.

Dr. Hany Farid, CEP Senior Advisor, and Dartmouth College Computer Science Professor says, “In many ways, this is the responsibility of social media it's baked into the system. The system is designed to engage you, to keep you on the platform as long as possible and the sensational and the outrageous do that, and so I think the social media companies have a serious responsibility here a deal with how they are promoting this.”

CEP experts also point out Facebook's systemic failure to police Islamic extremism, which oftentimes operates under the guise of Muslim education and promoted as part of the globalist Left agenda of diversity and multiculturalism.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Facebook claims it has aggressively targeted terrorist content, eliminating 99 percent of terror-related messages before anyone even reports it. But the CEP report lays out the shortcomings in Facebook’s approach, and how ISIS supporters avoid detection by using Facebook Live to host meetings and linking to banned material in comments, tricks that avoid Facebook’s automated flagging tools. Even worse, the report shows how Facebook’s algorithmically-powered “recommended friends” feature is helping connect disparate groups of ISIS supporters across the globe.

The researchers identified the accounts by trolling through Facebook for recently released ISIS propaganda using positive terminology, searching for geographic-based names, and examining pro-ISIS Facebook pages. They then searched the friends lists of the accounts they found to establish where networks were located and how they communicated with each other. And these accounts are representative of a much larger presence. The researchers say that they ignored hundreds of other accounts because they didn’t publicly disclose their location, so were omitted from this report. “We believe that the 1,000 accounts collected here represent only a small fraction of those on the site,” says David Ibsen, executive director for the Counter Extremism Project.

David Ibsen says that Facebook is simply not going enough to counteract the spread of Islamic State propaganda on its platform: “For all of this to exist on the site despite Facebook’s claims...indicates the massive scale in which IS supporters are active on the site.”

CEP experts claim Facebook’s unique ability to connect disparate groups of people is leading to the automation of connections between ISIS supporters, with the recommended friends automatically surfacing connections that may otherwise never happen. “The recommended friends feature must be reworked so that it does not actively connect ISIS supporters to each other or to users who are at risk of being radicalized and recruited,” Waters said.

IS propaganda was also observed going unremoved for extended periods of times, including well over a year on several occasions. For example, an Amaq video – the official IS media branch – posted by a pro-IS profile has gone unremoved since September 2016. Official IS propaganda videos were also viewed thousands of times before being removed, including a full 45-minute official IS propaganda video, “We Will Surely Guide Them to Our Ways,” which depicts combat during the Battle of Mosul and includes messages directed at western audiences from American, British, Canadian, Belgian, and Russian fighters in Iraq. Pro-IS accounts were also seen reinstated multiple times after being removed by Facebook. Perhaps most concerning is that Facebook’s suggested friends algorithm, which recommended IS supporters, propagandists, and even fighters as suggested friends, reveals how the company’s tools have aided in connecting extremist profiles and help expand IS networks.

ISIS worldwide. Facebook opens borders.

The scale to which IS and its supporters use Facebook to achieve its deadly ends is concerning. In research, 1,000 pro-IS profiles were identified, representing a fraction of IS supporting accounts on the platform. Report’s dataset includes profiles from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and the Philippines, as should be expected given IS’s prevalence there. However, Facebook profiles were also identified in Nepal, South Korea, and several South American countries, indicating the widespread geographical nature of IS supporters. IS networks were also found in countries that have robust counterterrorism and counter-extremism programs, including the United States where an IS network included people openly stating support for the terror group and discussing arrested terrorists they knew.
Researchers mapped the accounts and connections between 1,000 IS-supporting Facebook profiles with links to 96 countries on every continent except Antarctica using the open-source network analysis and visualization software. Once the 1,000 pro-IS Facebook accounts were mapped out, researchers analyzed the connections between international communities and organized information into national and regional networks for further analysis. CEP experts also identified notable IS Facebook profiles, including people responsible for hacking accounts on behalf of IS, active IS fighters and prolific propagandists. One profile belonged to a well-connected Jordanian or Egyptian national who is believed to have fought with or been associated with the IS affiliate Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid in southern Syria. This group is formed almost exclusively of local Syrians and, aside from this user, is largely isolated from the broader IS network on Facebook. This user’s extensive connections both within Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid as well as to external IS supporters suggest he likely had a senior role within Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid. Moreover, we also observed pro-IS organizations such as Al-Ansar bank setting up Facebook pages and interacting with people on the platform.
In the CEP study, the activities of IS propagandists on Facebook were observed and analyzed, the most active of which function as an official IS news source for supporters. Clear patterns and similarities between propaganda accounts were identified, such as only posting the text of propaganda releases while linking to pictures and videos in the post’s comments in an attempt to avoid Facebook’s automated flagging tools. IS propagandists also take steps to help avoid being completely removed by Facebook, including among other things preparing backup accounts should Facebook remove their current operating account. The sheer reach and size of the networks identified in this project illustrate Facebook’s deficient measures. All found 1,000 profiles explicitly supporting IS, are intertwined with only a few degrees of separation from one another. The importance of such a network cannot be understated. With such global reach, for example, an IS member in Syria could recruit someone in France to stage an attack in Paris, or could provide the contacts needed to assist someone interested in traveling to IS territory. The fact that several of the profiles we identified included active IS fighters and propagandists only furthers the concern about what IS related content remains and what activities occur on the platform.
It is clear from the CEP research that IS’s Facebook networks are strong, extensive, and growing. These networks can, and are, leveraged to conduct foreign attacks and sustain native insurgencies and have helped IS remain a deadly force despite losing its territory in Iraq and Syria.
Facebook remains an important tool for IS supporters and members to spread its propaganda, radicalize others, and recruit new members. CEP’s research project revealed Facebook’s ongoing inability to address IS content on its site in a manner that is comprehensive, consistent, and transparent. IS and its supporters have established an extensive and well-structured network of accounts, and Facebook’s policy failures have allowed the platform to become a place for pro-IS networks to exist and proliferate. While the company has repeatedly stated that “there is no place for terrorists on Facebook,” their current efforts to combat IS’s misuse have not been sufficient.

Spreading the word of hate

Given IS’s ongoing presence on the platform, it is clear that Facebook’s current content moderation systems are inadequate, contrary to the company’s public statements. Facebook has said that they remove 99% of IS and Al Qaeda content using automated systems, even though the tech firm readily admitted in the past that “AI can’t catch everything” and that “algorithms are not yet as good as people when it comes to understanding this kind of context.” This reliance on automated systems means IS supporters’ profiles often go unremoved by Facebook and can remain on the platform for extended periods of time. Of the 1,000 accounts, Counter Extremism Project identified, Facebook has now removed just over half, 537, according to Greg Waters, one of the researchers.

Pro-IS posts and even official propaganda can remain on the platform for months or even years. This includes statements, pictures, and videos from a variety of sources including IS’s Amaq news agency. In one instance an Amaq video was posted on September 2016 and remained available at the time of writing in April 2018. A full 45-minute official IS propaganda video, “We Will Surely Guide Them to Our Ways,” was uploaded in May 2017 but was still viewable in April 2018. The video depicts combat footage from the Battle of Mosul and shows how IS produced a variety of weapon systems including car bombs and rocket launchers. This video was shared multiple times in April 2018, including by accounts that were removed by Facebook. Yet despite that this video still has not been removed. In several other instances, official IS propaganda has gone unremoved on Facebook for a similar period of time, and often unofficial pro-IS content can remain on the platform for even longer.

Islamic ideologies spread on Facebook undeterred, IS content is not being removed quickly enough or prevented from being uploaded to Facebook, allowing IS content to be widely shared and viewed. A section of the official IS propaganda video Inside the Khilafah 7, produced by Al Hayat, was uploaded to Facebook by a supporter on February 9, 2018. It remained on the platform for over a week before being removed. Prior to that, it received more than 15,000 views and over 400 shares. Even after Facebook determined the clip violated its terms of service and should be removed, we observed other sections of that video being uploaded by different accounts, as well as full-length versions of Inside the Khilafah 7. In many cases, the clips and full videos received thousands of views.

An analysis of the 1,000 accounts shows that 43% have been suspended by Facebook as of March 5, 2018. Removing profiles that disseminate IS propaganda, call for attacks, and otherwise support the group is important. It can help prevent others from accessing this material and can help sever the networks that connects these supporters together. The fact that the majority of pro-IS profiles in this database have gone unremoved by Facebook at that time is troubling. IS’s Facebook networks are growing and can be utilized to plan and direct terror attacks as well as mobilize foreign fighters for multiple areas of insurgency.

Facebook keeps IS profiles alive

During the research process, CEP experts witnessed some IS supporting profiles being reinstated by Facebook after being suspended. At least three profiles in CEP’s database were suspended by Facebook but later reinstated and allowed to post again. Pro-IS Facebook users also often posted about having their profiles reinstated, and some even posted saying they could help others get their profiles reinstated. According to a January 2018 report in the Telegraph, an IS supporter in the UK who shared large amounts of IS propaganda had his account reactivated nine times by Facebook after he complained to the moderators.

In other cases, pro-IS profiles remain active despite having Facebook remove individual posts from that user. One IS supporter from and living in the United States, had one of their posts identified as breaching Facebook user guidelines and removed. Their profile, however, remained up despite containing posts praising IS attackers, discussing attacks by the group, and containing links to another website the Facebook user ran with IS propaganda posters and links to pro-IS Telegram accounts. His profile remains active as of April 2018.

Many IS Facebook accounts listed IS, a version of the group’s name, or one of IS’s affiliates as their place of work in their profile. Doing so automatically generates a Facebook page for this declared workplace. Users cannot post content to these workplace pages, but these pages do receive thousands of likes. Listing IS as their employer makes the profile easily identifiable as pro-IS so that others can see it and potentially bring the user into the wider pro-IS Facebook network. Moreover, doing so appears to have no effect on Facebook’s removal systems, since many such profiles remain on the platform as of April 2018.

Make even more new IS friends!

Facebook’s algorithms have also actively helped connect IS supporters and build extremist networks through ‘suggested friends.’ The feature has promoted extremist profiles including those of IS supporters and active IS fighters.

CEP expert Gregory Waters received dozens of pro-IS accounts as recommended friends after friending just one pro-IS account, and Gregory’s colleague Robert Postings received an influx of Philippines-based IS supporters and fighters as recommended friends after liking several non-extremist news pages about Marawi and the Philippines during IS’s capture of the city. On two other occasions, profiles used by us received an influx of IS supporters, propagandists, and active fighters. One profile was only used to view IS supporting profiles and did not friend any of those nodes while the other friended three nodes.

In these instances, many IS supporters, and even active fighters appeared as suggested friends when a limited number of IS profiles were friended, or in the most extreme cases, no IS profiles were friended at all. Facebook, in their desire to connect as many people as possible, have inadvertently created a system which helps connects extremists and terrorists. How it was shown by Ryan Mac, Charlie Warzel, Alex Kantrowitz, in their March 2018 Buzzfeed article, a leaked memo from Facebook Vice President Andrew Bosworth contained the lines “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still, we connect people.” This suggests that Facebook’s executive leadership either did not fully explore or simply ignored the ramifications of their connection-at-all-costs ethos, leading to situations where one of Facebook’s features has contributed to the expansion of IS’s network on the platform.

Join us via Facebook! Truly yours, ISIS

Like for Al Qaeda before it, IS has directed much of their propaganda against America, with the country being targeted in speeches, magazines, and videos. Outside of propaganda there are two ways that IS has physically interacted in the US: inspiring or directing attacks within the country and recruiting people to travel to IS territory. According to George Washington University’s February 2018 study, around 250 to 300 people have attempted to travel to IS territory from the US, though many of those were arrested before they could leave. The majority who did leave went to Iraq and Syria. One man was arrested in Yemen where he attempted to join IS and another was arrested in Tunisia while trying to reach IS in Libya.96 Around 180 succeeded in traveling from Canada to join IS.

Facebook is the most widely used social media site in the world, with 2.2 billion users as of March 2018. Unfortunately, terrorist groups have used the popular social media platform to promote their propaganda, radicalize and recruit, and incite violence. As early as 2014, western intelligence agencies were expressing alarm at IS content on platforms like Facebook. Since then, Zuckerberg’s company has repeatedly stated publicly “there’s no place on Facebook for terrorism” and have claimed impressive statistics about the removal of extremist content. However, terrorist content is still pervasive on Facebook despite these claims.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO: “It’s also become clearer over the last couple of years that we haven't done enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a mistake and I'm sorry for it.”

Seriously, Mark?

Author: USA Really