Facebook prides itself on connecting people all around the world. But that philosophy can seriously backfire; a report published in The Telegraph this week revealed that Facebook has allegedly introduced thousands of Islamic State extremists to each other through its “Suggested Friends” feature.
According to the Telegraph report, researchers analyzed the Facebook activity of a thousand ISIS supporters in 96 countries and discovered they were routinely introduced to each other by the social media giant. And the ease with which Facebook makes these connections is disturbing. All one researcher had to do was click on a news story about an Islamist uprising in the Philippines to begin receiving “dozens” of friend suggestions for extremists in the country. In another troubling incident, the researchers uncovered the case of a previously unreligious American man in New York who was radicalized over a six-month period by an Indonesian man over Facebook.
Facebook responded to the controversy by saying “99 percent” of ISIS-related content is detected and removed by the site’s automated systems. However, the researchers behind the study don’t believe that’s enough.
“This project has laid bare Facebook’s inability or unwillingness to efficiently address extremist content on their site,” researcher Gregory Waters told the Telegraph. “The fact that Facebook’s own recommended friends algorithm is directly facilitating the spread of this terrorist group on its site is beyond unacceptable.”