Hundreds of Fb teams had been filled with requires violence forward of the US election
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: 3D printed ballot boxes appear in front of a displayed Facebook logo
Posted by Katie Paul
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Before Facebook Inc. (O 🙂 closed a fast growing Facebook group “Stop the Steal” on Thursday. The forum urged members to prepare their weapons in case President Donald Trump loses his offer to stay in the White House.
In deactivating the group following coverage by Reuters and other news organizations, Facebook cited the forum’s efforts to delegitimize the electoral process and “worrying calls for violence by some members”.
Such rhetoric was not uncommon in the run-up to the elections in Facebook groups, a key factor in the engagement of the world’s largest social network, but it was not always treated equally.
A survey of US-based Facebook groups between September and October, conducted at the request of Reuters by the digital intelligence company CounterAction, found rhetoric with violent overtones in thousands of politically-minded public groups with millions of members.
Variations of twenty phrases that could be associated with calls for violence, such as “Lock and Load” and “We Need a Civil War,” along with references to election results, appeared on US-based public Facebook groups in approximately 41,000 cases Monthly period.
Other expressions such as “shoot them” and “kill them all” have been used at least 7,345 and 1,415 times in public groups, respectively, according to CounterAction. “Hang him” was published 8,132 times. “Time to shoot folks,” read one comment.
Facebook said it is reviewing the CounterAction results that Reuters reported to the company and will take steps to enforce guidelines “that reduce damage and unrest in the real world, including in groups,” said spokeswoman Dani Lever.
The company declined to say whether examples shared by Reuters are against its rules or where it draws the line in deciding whether a phrase “incites or incites serious violence”, which according to its policy is grounds for elimination.
Prosecutors have linked several disrupted militia plans to Facebook groups this year, including a planned attack on Black Lives Matters protesters in Las Vegas and a plan to kidnap the Michigan governor.
To address concerns, Facebook announced a series of policy changes since the summer aimed at curbing “militarized social movements,” including US militia, boogaloo networks and the QAnon conspiracy movement.
As a result of these changes, 14,200 groups have been removed since August.
As pressure increased on the company ahead of the elections, Zuckerberg said Facebook would pause referrals to political groups and new groups, though that move didn’t stop the Stop the Steal group from reaching more than 365,000 members in less than 24 hours to grow.
Facebook has been aggressively promoting groups since Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg made them a strategic priority in 2017. They said they were promoting “more meaningful connections,” and this year the business featured in a Super Bowl commercial.
Last month, advertising for groups in newsfeeds and search engine results increased despite civil rights groups warning that the product had become a breeding ground for extremism and misinformation.
The public groups can be seen, searched and connected by anyone on Facebook. Groups also offer private options that hide posts – or the existence of the forum – even if a group has hundreds of thousands of members.
Facebook has stated that it relies heavily on artificial intelligence to monitor the forums, especially private groups that provide few user reports of bad behavior, as members tend to be like-minded to flag posts that lead to violent actions for reviewers of human content.
While using violent language doesn’t always equate to an actionable threat, Matthew Hindman, a machine learning and media scientist at George Washington University who reviewed the findings, said Facebook’s artificial intelligence should be able to understand common terms for select the review.
“If you can still find thousands of instances of you shooting at them and getting a rope, you are seeing a systemic problem. A modern machine learning system would definitely not overlook this,” he said.
(This story is being rewritten to correct typos in paragraphs 8 and 12, and the Zuckerberg title is mentioned for the first time in paragraph 12.)