In the wake of the March 15 terrorist attack at Christchurch mosques, executives from Meta (Facebook), Twitter, and Google made a public promise that they would be “resolute in [their] commitment to ensure [they] are doing all [they] can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence”.
But just three years after that dark day, social media companies have already failed to keep their promise.
New research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) exposes how social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, failed to act on 89% of reported posts containing anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobic content. The content we identified included reference to the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that inspired the Christchurch mosque terrorist, amongst others.
Anti-Muslim hate seeks to dehumanise and marginalise communities of people who have historically been the subject of violent threats, attacks, and discrimination. Enabling this content to be promoted and shared on platforms further endangers these communities by driving social divisions, normalising abusive behaviour, and encouraging offline attacks and violence.
Worse still, platforms profit from this hate, monetising content, interactions, and the resulting attention and engagement. For them, hate is good business.
These findings are consistent with previous research from CCDH, which has shown how social media companies fail to protect users from misinformation about climate change and COVID-19, and antisemitism, anti-Black racism and misogyny.
What happens online shapes every area of our lives and has a profound impact on our societies, democracies, and our planet. If we want to tackle big issues like social inclusion, climate change, or global pandemics, we have to address what’s happening online. That’s why at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, we’re committed to disrupting the architecture of online hate and misinformation.
But this isn’t an issue that can be tackled by any one organisation alone. If we’re going to truly hold Big Tech accountable, we need to build a global coalition of citizens, civil society, and world leaders who want to see social media that reflects and uplifts principles of human rights and democracy.
On 19 May in Washington DC (20 May in NZ), CCDH is convening a Global Summit to Address Online Harms and Misinformation and will be live streaming this event globally. Lawmakers, academics, and activists will join together to build a roadmap for a new vision of social media, which puts people over profit, enhances connection rather than division, and embeds core principles of transparency, accountability and responsibility for social media companies and their executives.
Joining the conversation will be the Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist and advocate Maria Ressa, Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang, civil society leaders, and legislators and regulators from the five eye nations and the EU.
You can be part of this important moment too, sign up to the livestream here.
Stay tuned for more information on how CDDH is partnering with Transparency International New Zealand, including an upcoming event this winter for young adults on climate change misinformation and how to advocate for a less toxic online environment.
Author Jenna Galper is a member of the Center for Countering Digital Hate's policy team, based in London, where she is also pursuing a Masters in Strategic Communications at King's College. Previously, she was the Senior Communications Adviser for U.S. Congressman Adam B. Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.