Secret Far-Right Facebook Groups Stirring Up Anti-Muslim Hatred
19 June 2019, 08:54
An LBC investigation has uncovered far right groups using Facebook to stir up violence and hatred against Muslims.
Not only is the content of these groups racist, and in clear breach of Facebook's own terms and conditions, but police sources have told LBC that it may also include criminal offences.
Most users on Facebook know you can set up and join groups, on any subject under the sun. Normally, you can search for these groups - some are open, others are closed, and you have to apply to join.
But there's another lesser-known type of group: secret groups. These aren't searchable, and the only way you know they exist is if you get invited to join.
We've gained access to two such secret groups, and found a hive of far right activity, racism, islamophobia and homophobia. One group in particular has around 2,000 members, and is using Facebook as a means to share some disturbing, and potentially radicalising content.
A few examples:
On one page discussing Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan and Sajid Javid, members have commented that "Muslims need to be controlled". "They are invading our countries like turmites" (sic) says another.
On a post about a recent clash between far right protestors and Muslim counter protestors in Oldham, one man commented that Muslims were like "Sewer rats crawling out of drains" and another suggested bullets should be thrown at them.
And there is even some discussion of concentration camps being the best place for Muslims.
We've been told by a senior police source, as well as a criminal lawyer, that some of these comments could constitute offences under the public order act, punishable by up to 6 months in prison
A Facebook spokesperson told LBC: "Harmful or offensive content has no place on Facebook and groups must adhere to our community standards. These include strict rules around hate speech, harassment, bullying, and terrorist and extremist content.
"In this instance, the group itself does not violate our community standards - however, there were users and content within these groups which violated our rules and which we’ve immediately removed.
“Over the last twelve months, we’ve continued to invest in our technology to detect hate speech on Facebook. Between January and March this year we have removed 4 million pieces of hate speech from our platform. 65% of this content was automatically detected and removed before people reported it to us – which is almost double the same period last year.”
We flagged this with Facebook last week and as they've decided not to take the group down, people are still free to post on these groups.
We found two secret groups on Facebook. The question has to be, how many other hubs of extremism and radicalisation are lurking on the platform, out of sight?
The government's extremism commissioner Sara Khan told us she was "disgusted" by the comments and that social media companies like Facebook needed to do much more.
That sentiment was echoed by Sadiq Khan, who features heavily in some of the posts. He told us platforms needed to act more responsibly.