For immediate release | Thursday, September 6, 2018

Zuckerberg’s 99% Myth Exposed: As Sheryl Sandberg Testifies Before Congress, Extremists Remain on Facebook

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Website’s Private Groups Function Allows Extremists to Thrive & ISIS Continues to Incite Violence

(New York, NY) – Facebook Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday and as expected, her testimony was filled with familiar refrains, PR-laden apologies, proclamations of supposed successes and promises to do more. When ISIS, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have continually misused and abused Facebook to spread their propaganda and incite violence, thereby clearly violating the company’s terms of services, phrases such as “we’ll get back to you” and “that’s on us” are unacceptable.

While Ms. Sandberg testified, reports continued that the European Union (EU) was preparing a broad regulatory crackdown on social media companies such as Facebook, requiring them to take down terrorist content within an hour of its publication. And that comes not a minute too soon. The New York Times reported on Monday that extremist fringe groups, such as the right-wing nationalist group Proud Boys, have continued to find refuge and even thrive on Facebook by exploiting the website’s private groups function. Others, such as convicted terrorist Shah Jalal Hussain have used Facebook “to endorse an Islamist cleric accused of inspiring jihadists in Syria; encourage his followers to raise funds for terrorist suspects; and condone the stoning to death of adulterers.”

Further, so long as Facebook continues to host terrorist propaganda, the Counter Extremism Project will continue to call out the company for its ineffective content moderation. One video, over two months old with 1,100 views, is a compilation of approximately a dozen ISIS videos that show ambushes, combat training and celebrations. Another shows Kurdish troops being taken prisoner, allegedly to be exchanged for ISIS women in Kurdish custody. In addition, it features a wheelchair bound suicide bomber who is filmed saying goodbye to his daughter and nephew before detonating an explosives-laden vehicle, displays several suicide bombings and shows the dragging of Kurdish fighters behind vehicles. The narrator declares that ISIS fighters “will not surrender, ever.”

To read more about this issue and see the aforementioned examples, as well as other examples of extremist content, please see the background below.

EXTREMIST FACEBOOK CONTENT

1. ISIS Video Clip Encouraging Attacks On Crowded Public Locations

  • Located on Facebook: September 5, 2018
  • Time on Facebook: Five days
  • Views: 806, 90 likes/reacts and 13 shares
  • URL: Link
  • Profile Language: Arabic
  • Description: A segment from the ISIS video “You Are Not Held Responsible Except for Yourself,” originally released on June 19, 2016. This approximately one-minute long segment specifically encourages a suicide bombing in New York’s Times Square, a crowded public location, and praises Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub shooter.

2. ISIS Nasheed Video On Facebook For Two Months With Over 1,100 Views

  • Located on Facebook: September 5, 2018
  • Time on Facebook: Two months
  • Views: 1,100+, 26 likes/reacts and 34 shares
  • URL: Link
  • Profile Language: Arabic
  • Description: A video containing footage from multiple official ISIS video releases accompanying a nasheed.  Clips from approximately a dozen ISIS videos show ambushes, combat training and celebrations.

3. ISIS Video On Facebook For One Week With Over 350 Views

  • Located on Facebook: September 5, 2018
  • Time on Facebook: One week
  • Views: 354, 16 likes/reacts and 55 shares
  • URL: Link
  • Profile Language: Arabic
  • Description: The ISIS video “Inside the Caliphate 7,” originally released in February 2018.  The video shows Kurdish troops being taken prisoner, allegedly to be exchanged for ISIS women in Kurdish custody. It additionally features a wheelchair bound suicide bomber who is filmed saying goodbye to his daughter and nephew before detonating an explosives-laden vehicle, displays several suicide bombings and shows the dragging of Kurdish fighters behind vehicles. The narrator declares that ISIS fighters “will not surrender, ever.”

4. ISIS Video On Facebook For Three Days With Over 450 Views

  • Located on Facebook: September 5, 2018
  • Time on Facebook: Three days
  • Views: 474, 60 likes/reacts and 32 shares
  • URL: Link
  • Profile Language: Indonesian
  • Description: The ISIS video “Answering the Call 2,” from the group’s Afghan affiliate, originally released on August 11, 2018. The video includes scenes of children in ISIS schools, combat, and features statements by wounded and blinded ISIS fighters. One corpse is shown in the video.

5. Account Sharing ISIS News Propaganda

  • Located on Facebook: September 5, 2018
  • Time on Facebook: (different lengths of time, ISIS propaganda was first posted three days ago)
  • Views: N/A
  • URL: Link
  • Profile Language: Indonesian
  • Description: A Facebook account that has been sharing ISIS Amaq News updates, and links to pro-ISIS radio broadcasts.

BACKGROUND

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Testified Before The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee On Tuesday. “Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will get back to you with specifics and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has some work to do. Those were frequent refrains as both executives appeared before the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee to testify about foreign influence operations’ use of their social networks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.” (Sophia Kunthara, “Facebook’s Sandberg And Twitter’s Dorsey Get To-Do List From Congress,” San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/18)

EU Will Soon Begin Requiring Social Media Companies To Take Down Terrorist Content Within An Hour Of Online Publication. “The European Union is poised to adopt sweeping new powers against abuse of internet technologies, including measures to ensure the rapid removal of online terrorist message and an overhaul of regulations designed to counter cyber security threats.  The shift from relying on self-policing by the web giants to remove material that promotes extremism, incites violence or orchestrates plots to a mandatory scheme that would impose punishments for any failures to take action, represents a decisive break with past policies.  The proposal by the European Commission, expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks, will require internet giants like Facebook and Google to remove terrorist content within one hour of publication.  Failure to take rapid action after receiving a notification will result in penalties for the providers.” (Federica Marsi, “EU To Crack Down On Online Terrorism And Cyber Threats,” The National, 9/4/18)

Extremists Have Begun Using Private Facebook Groups To Maintain Their Online Presence. “Mr. Jones built his Facebook audience on pages – the big public megaphones he used to blast links, memes and videos to millions of his followers. In recent months, though, he and other large-scale purveyors of inflammatory speech have found refuge in private groups, where they can speak more openly with less fear of being punished for incendiary posts. Several private Facebook groups devoted to QAnon, a sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory, have thousands of members.  Regional chapters of the Proud Boys, a right-wing nationalist group that Twitter suspended last month for its ‘violent extremist’ nature, maintain private Facebook groups, which they use to vet new members. And anti-vaccination groups have thrived on Facebook, in part because they are sometimes recommended to users by the site’s search results and ‘suggested groups’ feature.” (Kevin Roose, “Facebook’s Private Groups Offer Refuge To Fringe Figures,” The New York Times, 9/3/18)

Convicted Terrorist Shah Jalal Hussain Has Used Facebook To Continue Spreading Propaganda And Inciting Violence. “A notorious convicted terrorist has been allowed to spread hardline views and support for hate preachers via Facebook. Since his release from prison about three years ago, Shah Jalal Hussain has used social media to endorse an Islamist cleric accused of inspiring jihadists in Syria; encourage his followers to raise funds for terrorist suspects; and condone the stoning to death of adulterers. Last night Ben Wallace, the security minister, described Hussain’s Facebook activity as ‘unacceptable’ and called for internet companies to do more to combat extremism. Hussain, 36, of east London, is a former member of the banned al-Muhajiroun group and has twice been convicted of terrorism offences. In 2008, he was jailed for collecting money for terrorists in Iraq. Six years later, he was sentenced to three years for encouraging terrorism and spreading terrorist propaganda online. In one video, Hussain, who is widely known as Abu Muwahhid, listed dying ‘on the battlefield’ against western forces as a means of getting to heaven. Hussain is believed to have been freed in 2015.” (Dipesh Gadher, “Freed Terrorist Uses Facebook To Promote Jailed Hate Preachers,” The Sunday Times, 9/2/18)