Study finds social media platforms failed to remove nearly 90 percent of Islamophobic content

A study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that some of the widely shared social media posts contained dehumanizing content about Muslims and Islam.
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Updated 28 April 2022
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Study finds social media platforms failed to remove nearly 90 percent of Islamophobic content

  • The research, led by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, looked at more than 530 posts, viewed 25 million times, that contained dehumanizing content about Muslims and Islam.
  • Much of the hateful content we uncovered was blatant and easy to find, with even overtly Islamophobic hashtags circulating openly,’ said the chief executive of the CCDH

LONDON: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok failed to remove nearly 90 percent of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic content on their platforms, according to new research published on Thursday.

The study, led by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, looked at more than 530 posts, viewed 25 million times, that contained dehumanizing content about Muslims and Islam.

“Much of the hateful content we uncovered was blatant and easy to find, with even overtly Islamophobic hashtags circulating openly and hundreds of thousands of users belonging to groups dedicated to preaching anti-Muslim hatred,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the CCDH.

ALSO READ: 15 years on, has Twitter done more harm than good in the Middle East? 

The messages were not limited to offensive opinions but also included caricatures, false claims and conspiracy theories. Some Instagram posts, for example, depicted Muslims as pigs and called for their expulsion from Europe.

Another social media post likened Islam to a cancer that should be “treated with radiation” and was accompanied by an image of an atomic blast. Messages on Twitter suggested that Muslim migration was part of a plot to change the politics of other countries. Many of the posts were accompanied by offensive hashtags such as #deathtoislam, #islamiscancer and #raghead.

ALSO READ: Social media platforms doing little to combat online hate speech in the Arab world: Experts 

The CCDH said that most of the hateful posts and Islamophobic content it monitored for the study was reported by users to the platforms’ community standards watchdogs. However, few were removed. Facebook, for example, took action on only seven out of 125 reported posts; Instagram on 32 out of 227 posts; TikTok on 18 out 50 posts; Twitter on three out of 105 posts; and YouTube failed to do anything about any of 23 videos it received complaints about.

Researchers also found that Facebook was being used by Islamophobic groups with names such as “Islam means Terrorism,” “Stop Islamization of America” and “Boycott Halal Certification in Australia.” Many of the groups, based predominantly in the UK, US and Australia, have thousands of members.

“Fight Against Liberalism, Socialism and Islam,” for example, has almost 5,000 members. The group is run by South African lawyer Mark Taitz. It claims that “moderate Islam does not exist and too many people fail to understand this,” and encourages Facebook users to “join our group to learn about Islam and the atrocities it is committing in ‘God’s name.’”

In response to the study, Twitter said it “does not tolerate the abuse or harassment of people on the basis of religion” and highlighted the automated system it uses to flag content that violates its policies. It did not address any of the specific findings of the report but the company did admit that it “knows there is still work to be done.”

ALSO READ: Facebook accused of promoting hate speech in India 

This is not the first time that social media platforms have been criticized over their responses to hate speech and offensive content. In December, for example, a report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that tracks online extremism, found that Facebook failed to remove extremist content. A new tool introduced the platform in November even tagged photos of beheadings and violent hate speech by Daesh and the Taliban as “insightful” and “engaging.”


EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

Updated 18 May 2024
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EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

  • The EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets since February 2022

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Friday banned four more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the 27-nation bloc for what it calls the spread of propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine and disinformation as the EU heads into parliamentary elections in three weeks.
The latest batch of broadcasters consists of Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which the EU claims are all under control of the Kremlin. It said in a statement that the four are in particular targeting “European political parties, especially during election periods.”
Belgium already last month opened an investigation into suspected Russian interference in June’s Europe-wide elections, saying its country’s intelligence service has confirmed the existence of a network trying to undermine support for Ukraine.
The Czech government has imposed sanctions on a number of people after a pro-Russian influence operation was uncovered there. They are alleged to have approached members of the European Parliament and offered them money to promote Russian propaganda.
Since the war started in February 2022, the EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets.

 

 


Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

Updated 17 May 2024
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Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

  • The BBC analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated

LONDON: Israeli soldiers continue to post videos of abuse against Palestinian detainees despite a military pledge to take action against the perpetrators, analysis by the BBC has found.

The broadcaster said it had analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated. Some were draped in Israeli flags. 

Experts say the footage and images, which showed Palestinians being stripped, beaten and blindfolded, could breach international law and amount to a war crime.

The Israel Defense Forces said some soldiers had been disciplined or suspended for “unacceptable behavior” but did not comment on the individual cases identified by the BBC.

The most recent investigation into social media misconduct by Israeli soldiers follows a previous inquiry in which BBC Verify confirmed Israeli soldiers had filmed Gazan detainees while beating them and then posted the material on social platforms.

The Israeli military has carried out arbitrary arrests across Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. The number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has since risen to more than 7,060 according to the Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

Ori Givati, spokesperson for Breaking the Silence, a non-governmental organization for Israeli veterans working to expose wrongdoing in the IDF, told the BBC he was “far from shocked” to hear the misconduct was ongoing.

Blaming “current far-right political rhetoric in the country” for further encouraging the abuse, he added: “There are no repercussions. They [Israeli soldiers] get encouraged and supported by the highest ministers of the government.”

He said this played into a mindset already subscribed to by the military: “The culture in the military, when it comes to Palestinians, is that they are only targets. They are not human beings. This is how the military teaches you to behave.”

The BBC’s analysis found that the videos and photos it examined were posted by 11 soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, the largest infantry brigade in the IDF. None of them hid their identity.

The IDF did not respond when the BBC asked about the actions of the individual soldiers and whether they had been disciplined.

The BBC also attempted to contact the soldiers on social media. The organization was blocked by one, while none of the others responded.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, urged an investigation into the incidents shown in the footage and called for the IDF to discipline those involved.

In response to the BBC’s investigation, the IDF said: “The IDF holds its soldiers to a professional standard … and investigates when behavior is not in line with the IDF’s values. In the event of unacceptable behavior, soldiers were disciplined and even suspended from reserve duty.

“Additionally, soldiers are instructed to avoid uploading footage of operational activities to social media networks.”

However, it did not acknowledge its pledge to act on BBC Verify’s earlier findings in Gaza, according to the broadcaster.


4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

Updated 17 May 2024
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4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

  • 104 Palestinian media workers reported dead, along with 3 Lebanese and 2 Israelis

LONDON: The Gaza Media Authority on Thursday said that four journalists had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, bringing the total number of journalists killed in the conflict to more than 100.

The victims were identified as Hail Al-Najjar, a video editor at the Al-Aqsa Media Network; Mahmoud Jahjouh, a photojournalist at the Palestine Post website; Moath Mustafa Al-Ghefari, a photojournalist at the Kanaan Land website and Palestinian Media Foundation; and Amina Mahmoud Hameed, a program presenter and editor at several media outlets, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The Gaza Media Office said the four were killed in an Israeli airstrike, but did not provide additional details on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

A total of 104 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the conflict began on Oct. 7. Two Israeli and three Lebanese media workers also have been killed.

The latest loss adds to the already heavy toll on media workers, with the Committee to Protect Journalists saying the Gaza conflict is the deadliest for journalists and media workers since it began keeping records.

Israel is continuing its offensive on Gaza despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

On Thursday, South Africa, which has brought a case accusing Israel of genocide to the International Court of Justice, urged the court to order Israel to halt its assault on Rafah.

According to Gaza medical authorities, more than 35,200 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and over 79,200 have been injured since early October when Israel launched its offensive following an attack by Hamas.


Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet

Updated 17 May 2024
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Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet

  • Authorities said outlet tries to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia
  • Move could criminalize SOTA content and puts its reporters at risk of arrest

LONDON: Russia declared opposition media outlet SOTA “undesirable” on Thursday, a move that could criminalize the sharing of its content and put its reporters at risk of arrest.
Authorities in Russia have declared dozens of news outlets, think tanks and non-profit organizations “undesirable” since 2015, a label rights groups say is designed to deter dissent.
In a statement, Russia’s Prosecutor General accused SOTA of “frank attempts to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia” and “create tension and irritation in society.”
“Such activities, obviously encouraged by so-called Western inspirers, have the goal of undermining the spiritual and moral foundations of Russian society,” it said.
It also accused SOTA of co-operating with TV Rain and The Insider, two other independent Russian-language outlets based outside of the country that are linked to the opposition.
SOTA Project, which covers opposition protests and has been fiercely critical of the Kremlin, denied it had anything to do with TV Rain and The Insider and rejected the claims.
But it advised its followers in Russia to “remove reposts and links” to its materials to avoid the risk of prosecution. SOTA’s Telegram channel has around 137,000 subscribers.
“Law enforcement and courts consider publishing online to be a continuing offense. This means that you can be prosecuted for reposts from 2023, 2022, 2021,” it said.
SOTA Project was born out of a split with a separate news outlet called SOTAvision, which still covers the opposition but distanced itself from the prosecutors’ ruling on Thursday.
Since launching its offensive in Ukraine, Moscow has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent that rights groups have likened to Soviet-era mass repression.
Among other organizations labelled as “undesirable” in Russia are the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Transparency International and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.


OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT

Updated 17 May 2024
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OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT

  • Deal underscores Reddit’s attempt to diversify beyond its advertising business
  • Content will be used to train AI models

LONDON: Reddit has partnered with OpenAI to bring its content to popular chatbot ChatGPT, the companies said on Thursday, sending the social media platform’s shares up 12 percent in extended trade.
The deal underscores Reddit’s attempt to diversify beyond its advertising business, and follows its recent partnership with Alphabet to make its content available for training Google’s AI models.
ChatGPT and other OpenAI products will use Reddit’s application programming interface, the means by which Reddit distributes its content, following the new partnership.
OpenAI will also become a Reddit advertising partner, the company said.
Ahead of Reddit’s March IPO, Reuters reported that Reddit struck its deal with Alphabet, worth about $60 million per year.
Investors view selling its data to train AI models as a key source of revenue beyond Reddit’s advertising business.
The social media company earlier this month reported strong revenue growth and improving profitability in the first earnings since its market debut, indicating that its Google deal and its push to grow its ads business were paying off.
Reddit’s shares rose 10.5 percent to $62.31 after the bell. As of Wednesday’s close, the stock is up nearly 12 percent since its market debut in March.