Facebook is finally taking organized hate seriously

Last quarter, Facebook removed more organized hate content than foreign terrorist content for the first time in its history.

Facebook is finally taking organized hate seriously
Tech spent years fighting foreign terrorists. Then came the Capitol riot.
Photo: Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

Facebook has historically cracked down on foreign terrorist threats more aggressively than domestic ones, but new data released by the company Wednesday suggests that might be changing.

Between January and March of 2021, Facebook said it took down more content related to organized hate groups than it did content related to terrorist organizations — the first time that has happened since Facebook began reporting on content violations and enforcement in late 2017.

Overall in the first quarter of 2020, Facebook removed 9.8 million pieces of organized hate content, up from 6.4 million in the last quarter of 2020. That's compared to 9 million pieces of terrorist content that were removed during the first quarter of this year, a slight increase from 8.6 million pieces of terrorist content removed in the last quarter of 2020. On Instagram, the company continued to remove more terrorist content than organized hate content, but the overall volume of content in both categories was significantly smaller than it was on Facebook.

While Facebook prohibits both organized hate and terrorism, enforcement against terrorist organizations has traditionally dwarfed enforcement against domestic hate groups. That's partly to do with governments, including the U.S. government, forcefully pushing social networks to banish foreign terrorist groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda, while tiptoeing around domestic organizations such as the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys. In the U.S., the threat posed by those homegrown groups has only recently been prioritized by government officials since the Capitol attack.

The disparity in enforcement is also partly to do with the diffuse, and in some ways, disorganized nature of so-called organized hate groups. "Groups that are less organized and less structured and don't put out official propaganda in the same sort of way, you have to use a different tool kit in order to get at those kinds of entities," Brian Fishman, who leads Facebook's work fighting dangerous individuals and organizations, recently told Protocol.

In the run up to the 2020 election, Facebook began ramping up its efforts to crack down on organized hate groups and militias, banning individuals and groups that had previously had free rein on the platform. Those policies were full of holes, and leaders of those militia groups have since been arrested for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 as part of schemes that court records show were largely planned on Facebook-owned platforms.

Still, the policy updates, coupled with improved algorithmic detection, appear to have had an impact. "These are improvements in our technology that continue to improve how proactive we are in detecting more violating content," Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of integrity, said on a call with reporters.

The uptick in enforcement against organized hate groups tracks with an increase in automated enforcement against hate speech writ large. While Facebook removed slightly less hate speech in the first quarter of 2021 than it did in the last quarter of 2020, actual views of that content decreased. Facebook estimates that in the first quarter, users saw hate speech five or six times per every 10,000 views of content. That's down from about seven or eight views of hate speech for every 10,000 views in the fourth quarter of 2020.

While Facebook's efforts to combat hate speech and hate groups may be progressing, Facebook's enforcement against other particularly sensitive categories of violating content suffered significant setbacks. According to Rosen, Facebook detected two technical issues that interfered with its detection of child sexual abuse material in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. Enforcement against that type of content dropped from 12.4 million pieces of content in the third quarter of 2020 to less than half of that in the fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021.

Rosen said the company is in the "process of addressing that and going back retroactively to remove and take action" on any violations Facebook might have missed.

In 2020, Facebook said it also saw a staggering increase in the number of content restrictions required by governments worldwide in order to comply with local laws. According to the report, those requests nearly doubled from 22,120 in the first half of 2020 to 42,606 in the second "driven mainly by increases in requests from the UK, Turkey and Brazil."


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories