Facebook generating terror content: Whistleblower group

Researchers have found that Facebook's own software was automatically creating "celebration" and "memories" videos for extremist pages that had amassed sufficient views or "likes". The social network is under fire for not doing enough to curb message
Researchers have found that Facebook's own software was automatically creating "celebration" and "memories" videos for extremist pages that had amassed sufficient views or "likes". The social network is under fire for not doing enough to curb messages of hate and violence.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST

SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook is unwittingly auto-generating content for terror-linked groups that its artificial intelligence systems do not recognise as extremist, according to a complaint made public.

The National Whistleblowers Centre in Washington said it carried out a five-month study of the pages of 3,000 members who liked or connected to organisations proscribed as terrorist by the US government.

Researchers found that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda militant groups were "openly" active on the social network.

More worryingly, Facebook's own software was automatically creating "celebration" and "memories" videos for extremist pages that had amassed sufficient views or "likes". The centre said on Thursday it had filed a complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of a source that wanted to stay anonymous.

"Facebook's efforts to stamp out terror content have been weak and ineffectual," read an executive summary of the 48-page document shared by the centre.

"Of even greater concern, Facebook itself has been creating and promoting terror content with its auto-generate technology."

Survey results shared in the complaint indicated that the social media company was not delivering on its claims about eliminating extremist posts or accounts.

Facebook told Agence France-Presse it had been removing terror-linked content "at a far higher success rate than even two years go", since making heavy investments in technology.

"We don't claim to find everything and we remain vigilant in our efforts against terrorist groups around the world," it said.

Facebook and other social media platforms have been under fire for not doing enough to curb messages of hate and violence.

In March, Facebook announced bans on support for white nationalism and white separatism on the social network and its photo-sharing site Instagram.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook generating terror content: Whistleblower group'. Print Edition | Subscribe