If you talk about Facebook, its latest mindset is all about user privacy, fighting fake news and hate speech on its platform. But at the same time, the company can’t stop earning money from the so-called groups that want to promote hate speech via the internet.
According to a new report by Sludge, the social network has raked in over $1.6 billion from various entities labeled as hate groups by the American civil rights watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
These groups ran a total of 4,921 advertisements on the platform between May 2018 and Sept 17, 2019.
SPLC has labeled 38 organization has hate groups for having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
As per the report, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), known for its anti-immigrant ideology, paid Facebook $910,101 to run 335 ads and became the top payer on the list.
FAIR is preceded by the anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom which paid $391,669 but for running 3,301 ads.
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All of this has come to light at times when Facebook says it’s working really hard to cut down on the spread of hate speech.
The company claims it’s making progress and was able to proactively remove around 65% of hate speech in Q1 2019 in comparison to 24% in Q4 2017. These numbers are part of Facebook’s Community Standards Enforcement Report released in May 2019.
Over the years, Facebook has made changes to its community guidelines, introducing new rules to combat hate speech. However, hate groups continue to exist on the platform because Facebook’s hate speech detection system focuses on individual posts rather than entire groups, according to Sludge.
The social network seems to be kicking out only those groups and individuals “that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence.”
At the same time, Facebook’s machine learning algorithm has also been criticized for its inefficiency. Auburn University senior fellow Kalev Leetaru believed it was possible for Facebook to improve its hate speech detection using existing technology, he told Gizmodo.
But the increased cost of operations might make the platforms think twice about making their system more robust. Adding to that is the huge amount of monetary benefit that comes from such advertisements. Leetaru also thinks that there is a lack of pressure from advertisers and governments that leaves companies with “little incentive to do better.”
In its defense, a Facebook spokesperson told Sludge that “they continually study trends in organized hate and hate speech, and work with partners to understand how they evolve.”
“We are reviewing the content flagged and taking action against any posts or ads that violate our policies.”
However, it’s not just Facebook who is profiting from such groups, ads were run on other platforms as well.
For instance, the anti-immigrant group FAIR spent around $917,000 on Twitter ads since October 2018. The hate group also spent around $90,000 on election-related Google ads since May 31, 2018.
Sludge wasn’t able to find any other SPLC-designated hate groups on Twitter’s ad-database. However, it notes that the political ad databases maintained by other platforms are less comprehensive than Facebook. For example, Snap Inc.’s Political Ad Library doesn’t include any ads bought by hate groups.