Racist groups banned by Facebook change account names, get right back on, research shows

Researchers report that a number of white supremacist/white nationalist/violent racist crackpot groups like the 'Proud Boys' and 'Soldiers of Odin' (gag) are doing just fine and being very active on Facebook -- all they had to do is ever so slightly modify their names.

Facebook's not-very-effective ban was a kludgy response to the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, the prelude to which was live-streamed on Facebook by the killer.

“Over a month after Facebook announced a ban of a number of white nationalist, white supremacist, and other hate groups, they are still on the platform and continue to use it for recruitment,” reports Buzzfeed News:

“Facebook likes to make a PR move and say that they’re doing something but they don’t always follow up on that,” Megan Squire, an Elon University computer science professor who researches online extremism, told a joint BuzzFeed News–Toronto Star investigation.

Kevin Chan, one of Facebook’s global policy directors, said while they proactively removed some hate groups, the company also relies on users, journalists, and other sources to report when banned personalities make it back on the platform.

Chan said that sometimes it may feel like whack-a-mole, but he considers it more of an arms race — with Facebook trying to get better at keeping listed hate groups off its platform, and those banned users figuring out new ways to find their way back online.

“Every time we are learning. Now, we presume they’re also learning … I think it’s really more of an arms race,” Chan said.

“But the trend line is that it is going to get really hard for people to do this, so hard to the point where … there’s going to be so much friction in the system that they’re probably going to go somewhere else,” he said.

Squire has been researching extremism on Facebook for years and said the ban didn’t capture most of the groups she has been monitoring. Squire provided BuzzFeed News and Toronto Star a list of groups that have made a comeback on the platform, including those that participated in the deadly Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.

Facebook removed all examples of the groups BuzzFeed News and the Toronto Star sent to the company.

“Individuals and organizations who spread hate, attack, or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are have no place on our services,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We proactively look for bad actors, and investigate concerns when they are raised.”

Also detailed in the Buzzfeed report, testimony by one researcher that they flagged an Indiana-based Ku Klux Klan group that used Facebook to organize events and rallies.

That 2018 report of a KKK rally that was being promoted on Facebook was never followed up on by Facebook.

When she learned the group was holding a rally in Ohio last weekend, Squire checked her Facebook support inbox and said her report from last year was still under review. “This is literally the Klan we’re talking about,” she said.

Read more: White Nationalist Groups Banned By Facebook Are Still On The Platform

[PHOTO: “Three Ku Klux Klan members standing beside automobile driven by Klan members at a Ku Klux Klan parade through counties in Northern Virginia bordering on the District of Columbia. 18 March 1922.” Ku Klux Klan Virginia 1922 Parade - Wikimedia Commons]