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Daesh Make 'Friends': Facebook Blamed for Introducing Terrorists to One Another

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Facebook, social media - Sputnik International
No sooner had the Cambridge Analytica scandal reached its climax than the social media company got entangled into a new debate over its counterterrorism policies, or more likely, the implications of a well-known tool that Facebook has been universally using to bring together those who think alike.

Facebook is now accused of introducing thousands of Daesh* extremists to one another through its broad "suggested friends" feature and thus facilitating the buildup of terrorist networks and their further extension, The Telegraph reported.

In broader terms, through a set of elaborate algorithms, Facebook has been connecting people with common interests, and more specifically, a thousand Daesh supporters in at least 96 countries whose accounts were analyzed in the framework of new research. 

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The social media giant automatically harvests piles of personal information about its registered users, which subsequently come in handy in advert targeting and directing people towards others who, as Facebook alleges, share their interests. What the new research is focused on is the extent to which the well-known "suggested friends" feature has helped Daesh terrorists establish their intercommunity ties and promote their propaganda materials. The findings are due to be published later in May in a full-fledged report prepared by the Counter Extremism Project, a nonprofit that has recently called on tech companies to do more to remove already known terrorist material from online sources.

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Gregory Waters and Robert Postings, who are among the authors of the research, described how they were inundated with hordes of Facebook suggestions for pro-Daesh friends and multiple related friend requests after making contact with just one active Islamist on the website. Similar experience is also broadly shared on Twitter, with users going as far as calling Facebook a platform inciting terrorism.


The authors of the study have pointed to the general failure of Facebook to eradicate radical content, which essentially paves the way for Islamists to radicalize their targets unhindered. The findings suggest that less than half of the 1,000 pro-Daesh profiles initially spotted were suspended within the first six months of being discovered. Interestingly, if users requested Facebook to cancel the suspension of their reportedly pro-Daesh accounts, in some cases, they were reinstated.

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Waters said: "This project has laid bare Facebook's inability or unwillingness to efficiently address extremist content on their site.

"The failure to effectively police its platform has allowed Facebook to become a place where extensive IS supporting networks exist, propaganda is disseminated people are radicalized and new supporters are recruited."

In response to the accusations, Facebook has claimed there is no place for terrorists on their website, and that they are working "aggressively" to ensure that no terrorism-related groups are using their platform. "And we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism,” a spokesman for Facebook added. Facebook’s automated systems effectively track nearly 99 percent of pro-Daesh content that they remove, although “there is no easy technical fix to fight online extremism," he concluded.

Facebook’s reputation has been marred recently over a notorious data breach scandal involving the UK-based Cambridge Analytica data analysis firm, which recently announced the decision to file for bankruptcy. Facebook acknowledged that it had allowed Cambridge Analytica, tied to Donald Trump’s 2016 pre-election campaign, to harvest the personal data of up to 87 million users of the social network without their permission. The scandal made headlines earlier this year and led to multiple investigations involving both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, with the former facing a severe loss of clients.

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.
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