Extremist Content Online: Facebook Edition

(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to exploit Meta-owned Facebook to spread propaganda, recruit followers, and incite violence in order to hold the popular social media platform accountable for its failure to prevent the dissemination of extremist and terrorist content.

This week, CEP identified 10 Facebook profiles that posted clips and full-length ISIS propaganda videos as well as pro-ISIS video, audio, pictures, and text, among other content. Several of the accounts used a profile photo of Abu Osama al-Faransi, a figure known for his ISIS recruitment efforts. CEP also located a propaganda video posted nearly a month ago that was specifically altered to avoid removal from the platform by erasing logos and blurring footage and has garnered hundreds of views. The video was uploaded over a month after it was originally released. It is unclear why Facebook did not detect the video upon upload using robust hashing, which can account for minor edits in footage.

The extremist and terrorist content found by CEP researchers on Facebook are clear violations of the platform’s terms of service, yet it often fails to be removed. CEP encourages Facebook to take concrete action regarding the misuse of its site, including by providing Meta’s Oversight Board with access to any and all information related to its inquiry; bringing on external experts with core computer science skills, such as U.C. Berkeley professor and CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid, onto the Oversight Board; and integrating Oversight Board members onto its corporate board. Meta is responsible for the extremist content on its platforms, and it must begin to act as such.

Pro-ISIS Content Located on Facebook

CEP researchers located 10 pro-ISIS accounts on Facebook in a content sample on August 24. The profiles posted a variety of pro-ISIS content, including a full-length ISIS video modified to evade content detection, clips from ISIS propaganda videos, unofficial pro-ISIS videos, audio from the pro-ISIS-K media group al-Azaim Foundation, Amaq propaganda photos and news posts, pages from al-Naba newsletter, pro-ISIS images and text, and links to ISIS content on other websites. 

Two of the Facebook accounts, one with 910 friends and the other with 130 followers, used a photo of the French ISIS fighter Abu Osama al-Faransi as their profile photo. Abu Osama appeared in the notable November 2014 ISIS video “What Are You Waiting For?” where he called for French Muslims to travel to join ISIS in Syria, and another speaker called for attacks in France.

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ISIS video “A Book That Guides And A Sword That Gives Victory,” on Facebook on August 24, 29 days after it was uploaded. The video was modified by the uploader to prevent it from being detected and removed. Logos on the top right of the video were removed and parts of the video were blurred.

The profiles had between six and 1,100 friends or followers, with an average of 460. Two accounts did not have their number of friends or followers listed. 

On July 27, one of the accounts posted a propaganda video, “A Book That Guides And A Sword That Gives Victory,” released on June 14, 2022. Over the next 29 days, the video had amassed 422 views and 55 likes/reactions. The uploader modified the video to prevent it from being detected and removed, logos on the top right of the video were removed, and parts of the video were blurred. 

CEP reported the 10 accounts to Facebook on August 24. Approximately 36 hours later, all 10 accounts were still online.

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 23, 2021, the Houthis began a siege on Marib’s al-Abdiyah district, sparking a humanitarian crisis as the rebels blocked medical and other humanitarian aid. Aid workers on the ground accused the Houthis of committing genocide by denying access to humanitarian organizations and shelling hospitals and other vulnerable civilian targets.   

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