European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI
Extremist Content Online: Facebook Edition
Recently Uploaded Six-Year-Old ISIS Propaganda Video Found Among Numerous Pro-ISIS Facebook Posts
(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to exploit Meta-owned Facebook to spread propaganda, recruit followers, and incite violence in order to hold the popular social media platform accountable for its failure to prevent the dissemination of extremist and terrorist content.
On the nine accounts and one page that CEP located on Facebook within the past week that posted pro-ISIS content, researchers found full-length ISIS videos among various other pieces of propaganda, including a video originally released in 2016 but uploaded to the social media site recently, that had several hundred views. Two of the accounts also featured a prominent ISIS executioner as their profile photos.
The extremist and terrorist content found by CEP researchers on Facebook are clear violations of the platform’s terms of service, yet it often fails to be removed. CEP encourages Facebook to take concrete action regarding the misuse of its site, including by providing Meta’s Oversight Board with access to any and all information related to its inquiry; bringing on external experts with core computer science skills, such as U.C. Berkeley professor and CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid, onto the Oversight Board; and integrating Oversight Board members onto its corporate board. Meta is responsible for the extremist content on its platforms, and it must begin to act as such.
Pro-ISIS Content Located on Facebook
In a sample of pro-ISIS content found on August 17, CEP researchers located nine accounts and one page that posted multiple pieces of the group’s propaganda. Content published by the accounts included a full-length ISIS video originally released in 2016, as well as clips from other previously released ISIS videos, Amaq propaganda videos, Amaq photos and news statements, pages from the al-Naba newsletter, and promotion of the pro-ISIS-K magazine “Voice of Khurasan” and links to ISIS propaganda on other websites.
One of the accounts posted an approximately 17-minute-long ISIS propaganda video titled “They Bewitched The Eyes of the People and Struck Terror into Them,” originally released in January 2016. The uploader covered ISIS logos on the top right of the screen with an emoji to prevent it from being detected and removed. The video was uploaded to Facebook four days before CEP located it and had 226 views and 22 reactions.The ISIS video “They Bewitched The Eyes of the People and Struck Terror into Them,” originally released in January 2016. ISIS logos on the top right of the screen were covered with an emoji in order to evade removal.
Two Facebook accounts used images of the notorious ISIS executioner Mohammed Emwazi as profile photos. One of the Facebook accounts, which posted multiple pieces of pro-ISIS content, also posted a video of previously released surveillance footage that showed a Jewish man being stabbed by a colleague in Montreal. The Facebook page for the ISIS al-Naba newsletter had 11 followers and posted photos, text from al-Naba, and other pro-ISIS content. Three of the nine accounts did not have the number of friends or followers listed. The remaining six accounts had between 120 and 1,300 friends or followers, with an average of 529.
CEP reported the nine accounts and one page to Facebook on August 17. Approximately 48 hours later, only two accounts had been removed. The video from 2016 was still on Facebook two days later and had received an additional 50 views.