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Facebook is in trouble. Again.
The platform has been criticised in recent weeks for allowing Donald Trump to run blatantly false adverts on its platform. As a result, Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has gone after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for not blocking political misinformation on his platform.
And yesterday, Warren was backed up by the new hero of the American left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who skewered Zuckerberg in a Congressional hearing on this subject.
We reported on this issue a few months ago – showing that Facebook was allowing racist lies to be propagated through adverts.
An analysis of US and UK adverts from the past few months shows that this problem is intensifying.
Scram News has now found that Facebook is allowing hate groups to run openly Islamophobic adverts on its platform.
One such advert was recently run by a now seemingly defunct Facebook page, linked to Islamophobic far-right party Britain First. The advert expresses clear hatred towards Muslims, and supports the far-right cult hero, Tommy Robinson.
Meanwhile, a group called the Croesaid Party has run 13 adverts since June, spending around £11,000 to reach 55,000 people. One advert accuses Islam of a “callous and cynical disregard of equality” – peddling a conspiracy about the “Islam agenda.”
During his testimony yesterday, Zuckerberg failed to present a clear process for how Facebook reacts to these adverts. While he declared: “I think lying is bad”, he effectively said that people should be able to lie in a democracy.
And so, Islamophobic conspiracy theories are openly disseminated on his platform, including in the United States.
The Counter Islamist Grid (CIG) is funded by the Middle East Forum, a multi-million dollar right-wing think tank that has bankrolled Tommy Robinson and says it exists to deal with “the insidious spread of Islamist ideology in North America”.
The CIG recently put out an advert that falsely claims Muslims intend to takeover the US and replace its constitution with the Qu’ran.
Meanwhile, the Clarion Project, an organisation reviled by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading anti-Muslim propaganda and falsifying information, has spent money peddling the conspiracy theory that US school children are indoctrinated into Islam.
We previously revealed that the Clarion Project had been targeting similar adverts at Facebook users in the UK.
Facebook has an advertising policy that regulates the types of advert it allows on its platform. The policy says that an advert is reviewed before it appears, to make sure it doesn’t violate its Community Standards – which in turn say:
“We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.
“We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics – race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity and serious disease or disability.”
However, hate seems to be rife on the platform. Earlier this year, we revealed that Facebook was facilitating hate ads in the US and the UK. Responding to our stories, campaign group HOPE not hate, said:
“Facebook has been asleep at the wheel.
“At a time of rising far-right terror and hate crimes, its deeply irresponsible to allow this sort of content on any social platform, let alone make money off it through advertising.”
Meanwhile, Facebook said that it had to strike a tough balance between investigating hate and protecting freedom of speech.
It seems that in the months following this investigation, nothing has changed, with hateful adverts regularly appearing on the platform.
In a blog post about hate speech published in 2017, Facebook said: “It’s clear we’re not perfect when it comes to enforcing our policy. Often there are close calls – and too often we get it wrong”.
When Facebook were contacted for this piece, they said they would investigate the adverts in question.