Analysis of online platforms: “Big Tech as a driving force for radicalization”


Status: 01/13/2022 6:38 a.m.

Large online platforms apparently still fail to curb hateful content and disinformation. An analysis of the data shows how disinformation is suggested and hate speech is partially tolerated.

By Patrick Gensing,

The debate about the lack of law enforcement on Telegram is important, but should not distract from the responsibility of the big operators of platforms such as Meta and YouTube. This is what the organization writes in an analysis titled “Big Tech as a engine for radicalization”. Reset is an initiative that advocates tighter regulation of large tech companies.

Reset refers to whistleblower Frances Haugen, who revealed that Meta’s management level has consistently ignored empirical findings about the risks of Facebook and Instagram. Management had received evidence, for example, on the link between Instagram and underage eating disorders, but also on the radicalizing and polarizing effects of Facebook’s algorithms around the world.

This problem has been known and proven for years. previously reported in 2015 how Facebook’s suggestions can quickly lead users into a right-wing extremist milieu.

Range of misinformation multiplied

These automated recommendation systems from Facebook or YouTube have multiplied the range of disinformation and conspiracy narratives since the start of the pandemic, Reset writes – and thus “radical positions are being taken from the fringes of society to the general public of debate” . One example is Russian state broadcaster RT DE, which had become one of the most important sources in the corona deniers and “side thinkers” scene before its YouTube channels were blocked.

Analysis by Reset Show: If you search for keywords like “vaccination,” Facebook suggests joining anti-vaccination groups where disinformation and ideological conspiracy content is widely shared. Profiles quickly appear on Instagram with these keywords, for example selling fake vaccination certificates.

Screenshot of Facebook with search suggestions for the term “vaccination card”

Photo: Facebook

In November 2021, for example, an Instagram page from the Netherlands featuring fake vaccination cards was reported on Instagram. In return announced the companythat it is not obvious that this violates the guidelines.

Profit from disinformation

A search for also showed that Facebook makes money with deceptive content on Covid-19 and allows corresponding ads – contrary to its own guidelines. Something similar had already been observed in early 2021.

More hatred of the AfD than on the pages of the “lateral thinkers”

Reset criticizes in his report that it is available in advance that Facebook’s action against hate content is inconsistent. As an example, a data analysis is given in which the pages of “lateral thinkers” and the AfD are examined. About 1,000 Facebook pages and groups with nearly two million comments were rated. Reset filtered tens of thousands of hate comments from these sources and rated them for their aggressiveness and whether they were threats or insults.

Reset found that hate speech and calls for violence are generally more common from the AfD than, for example, from “lateral thinking” groups. Nonetheless, Facebook has so far only acted against “lateral thinking” groups, but has not worried the AfD – “although they reach much greater reach and contain more radical and criminal content. “said Reset. Much of the hateful content has been online for a long time, experts found.

Comments from the AfD’s public Facebook pages

Image: Facebook / AfD

In addition, there is a large overlap between users: the analysis showed that 45% of the followers of the “lateral thinking” pages were also active on the AfD profiles. 32% of NPD supporters were also active on behalf of the AfD.

“Preparing the ground for radicalization”

Felix Kartte of Reset said in conversation with, of course Telegram is a problem. But the very large platforms “first prepare the ground for radicalization in the pandemic and make a much larger audience accessible to anti-democratic ideas”.

For request of A meta spokesperson said of Reset’s criticism: “Since the start of the pandemic, our goal has been to disseminate reliable information on Covid-19, take decisive action against disinformation and encourage people to be vaccinated. We are continually researching and removing content and deactivating accounts, pages or groups that violate our community guidelines and continuously working to improve our technology to ensure a safe experience on our platforms and to keep harmful content out of reach. ‘Instagram and Facebook. ”

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