For immediate release | Thursday, April 5, 2018

CEP To Facebook: Zuckerberg Must Explain Failure To Remove Extremist Content

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Media at CEP

Tech Companies’ Half-Measures Allow Recruitment, Incitement  

New York, NY – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond to the proliferation of extremist and terrorist content on Facebook during his upcoming appearances at Senate and House committee hearings.

Specifically, CEP believes Zuckerberg must answer for Facebook’s failure to promptly identify and permanently remove radicalizing extremist content, especially in light of a recently leaked memo which minimized concerns over public safety versus company growth. The memo, written six days after Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook and then murdered 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, said: “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”

CEP is encouraging federal lawmakers, whose top priority is public safety, to hold tech companies accountable for their actions, including their failure to effectively and transparently take action to identify and permanently remove content from their sites that has been implicated in terrorist attacks, as well as allowing fake news in the form of doctored audio and video content to persist on their platforms.

“Many people have been killed or injured in brutal terror attacks in the U.S. and around the world because of the proliferation of extremist content online, including on Facebook and its subsidiaries,” said CEP Executive Director David Ibsen. “Time and again, tech companies like Facebook promise to ‘do better’ but fail to permanently remove the kind of content that leads to radicalization and violence. Mr. Zuckerberg needs to explain why he continues to tolerate this gross misuse of his platform and detail the company’s strategy to effectively combat it at the upcoming Congressional hearings.”

As the joint Senate Judiciary-Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings draw near, extremists continue to misuse Facebook and its other platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp. A recent search by CEP found videos displaying executions, images of propaganda, and fake news praising extremist and terrorist actions live on the platform. This obvious proliferation of extremist content online has led to some of the world’s most violent events.

For specific examples of extremist content that can be found on Facebook, please contact [email protected]

BACKGROUND

CEP Has Found That The Accounts Of Some Of The Most Prolific Extremists Remain Active On Facebook:

  • Ahmad Musa Jibril: Jibril is an American Islamist preacher who has produced Internet lectures advocating an extremist Salafist version of Islam.  His YouTube sermons praise Syrian fighters, while his tweets are filled with anti-West rhetoric.  While his official page no longer appears to be active, several fan accounts dedicated to him and his teachings remain. 
    • To learn more, please visit CEP here.
  • Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Qaradawi has been banned from entering the United States, the United Kingdom and France due to his declaration of support for suicide bombings and incitement of Islamist violence. His official page remains active, as well as a few fan accounts
    • To learn more, please visit CEP here.
  • Tarik Chadlioui: Chadlioui is an Islamist preacher who reportedly played a role in radicalizing Bataclan suicide bomber Oman Mostefai through sermons at a Paris mosque.  He continues to have an active presence online, including on his official Facebook page. 
    • To learn more, please visit CEP here
  • Zakir Naik: Naik is an Islamist televangelist accused of influencing the July 2016 Dhaka attackers in Bangladesh. He has reportedly expressed sympathy for terrorists, called 9/11 an “inside job,” views apostasy as treason and has encouraged a number of shootings and other violent behavior. His official Facebook page appears to have been removed, but a few fan accounts remain active and have amassed tens of millions of followers. 
    • To learn more, please visit CEP here.

Misuse Of Facebook & Platforms By Extremists Has Led To Deadly Shootings & Violent Behavior:

  • San Bernardino Shooter’s Spouse Pledged Allegiance To The Leader Of ISIS In A Facebook Post. “On the day of the massacre of 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, Tashfeen Malik pledged her allegiance to the leader of ISIS in a Facebook post, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the shootings.  The terror group claims Malik, 29, and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, were ‘supporters’ of ISIS. The post, declaring her loyalty to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was made on an account with a different name, although officials did not explain how they knew Malik made the post.” (Pat St. Claire, Greg Botelho & Ralph Ellis, “San Bernardino Shooter Tashfeen Malik: Who Was She?” CNN, 12/8/15)
  • London Attacker Khalid Masood Used WhatsApp To Declare His Jihad Minutes Before His Car Attack. “The last message left by the killer Khalid Masood on the WhatsApp messaging service, revealing his motivation for the lethal attack in Westminster, has been uncovered by the security agencies, The Independent has learnt. In the message, sent just minutes before he began the rampage in which five people died and 50 were injured, the 52-year-old Muslim convert had declared that he was waging jihad in revenge against Western military action in Muslim countries in the Middle East.” (Kim Sengupta, “Last Message Left By Westminster Attacker Khalid Masood Uncovered By Security Agencies,” The Independent, 4/27/17)
  • Larossi Abballa Killed Twice For ISIS & Said So Live On Facebook. “He stabbed an off-duty police officer and left him bleeding to death on his own doorstep.  He forced his way inside the home and stabbed and killed the officer’s female companion.  He then sat down and videotaped himself live on Facebook declaring allegiance to the Islamic State, according to the French law enforcement authorities. Sitting just behind him was the couple’s son, a terrified 3-year-old boy, of whom Larossi Abballa, the killer, said dismissively, ‘I have not decided what to do with him,’ according to David Thomson, a French journalist for Radio France Internationale and the author of a book on jihadists who saw Mr. Abballa’s online posts before they were taken down … Mr. Abballa’s Facebook post from Monday night made clear that he wanted to terrify and destroy those he deemed ‘unbelievers,’ people he had come to hate.  He also wanted to encourage other lone wolves to do the same.” (Alissa J. Rubin & Lilia Blaise, “Killing Twice For ISIS And Saying So Live On Facebook,” The New York Times, 6/14/16)
  • Munir Mohammed Was Radicalized Using WhatsApp & Was Arrested In A Terror Plot After He Attempted To Message An ISIS Commander Via Facebook. “A couple who planned an Isis-inspired terror attack in the UK after meeting on a dating website have been jailed.  Munir Mohammed was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 14 years, while accomplice Rowaida El-Hassan was jailed for 12 years and five more under licence conditions … Mohammed was the chief architect of the plot after volunteering for a ‘lone wolf’ UK mission as he chatted on Facebook with a man he believed was an Isis commander … The Old Bailey heard the pair had a ‘rapidly formed emotional attachment and a shared ideology’ and were in regular contact on WhatsApp by spring 2016, meeting in a London park near El-Hassan’s home. Records of their messages show they shared extremist views and graphic Isis propaganda videos, while El-Hassan advised Mohammed on what chemicals to buy for a bomb.” (Lizzie Dearden, “Couple Jailed For Planning Isis-Inspired Bomb Attack In UK After Meeting On Dating Site,” The Independent, 2/22/18)