Analysis of online platforms: “Big Tech as an engine for radicalization”


Status: 01/13/2022 06:38 a.m.

The big online platforms apparently still cannot get a grip on hateful content and disinformation. A data analysis 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 large platform operators such as Meta and YouTube. This is what the organization writes in an analysis entitled “Big Tech as an engine for radicalization”. Reset is an initiative, which advocates stricter regulation of the large technology corporations.

Reset refers to the whistleblower Frances Haugen, who had revealed that Meta’s management level systematically ignored empirical findings about the risks of Facebook and Instagram. The management had received evidence, for example, about the connection between Instagram and eating disorders among minors, but also about the radicalizing and polarizing effects of Facebook’s algorithms around the world.

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

Range of disinformation multiplied

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

Analyzes by Reset show: If you search for key words like “vaccination”, Facebook suggests joining anti-vaccination groups in which disinformation and ideological conspiracy content are widely shared. Profiles quickly appear on Instagram with these keywords, for example selling fake vaccination certificates.

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

Image: Facebook

In November 2021, for example, an Instagram page from the Netherlands offering fake vaccination records was reported on Instagram. As feedback announced the companythat it is not evident that this violates the guidelines.

Profit from disinformation

A research by also showed that Facebook earns money with misleading content about Covid-19 and allowed corresponding advertisements – contrary to its own guidelines. Something similar had already been observed in early 2021.

More hatred of AfD than on “lateral thinkers” pages

Reset criticizes in his report that it is available in advance that Facebook’s action against hateful content is inconsistent. As an example, a data analysis is given in which the pages of “lateral thinkers” and the AfD are examined. Around 1000 Facebook pages and groups with almost two million comments were evaluated. Reset filtered tens of thousands of hate comments from these sources and assessed them in terms of their aggressiveness and whether they were threats or insults.

Reset found that hate speech and calls for violence are generally more common on the part of the AfD than, for example, on the part of the “lateral thinking” groups. Nevertheless, Facebook has so far only acted against “lateral thinking” groups, but left the AfD unmolested – “although they achieve a much greater reach and contain more radical and criminal content,” said Reset. Much of the hate content has been online for a long time, the experts found.

Comments from public Facebook pages of the AfD

Image: Facebook / AfD

In addition, there is a large overlap among users: The analysis showed that 45 percent of the followers of “lateral thinking” pages were also active on AfD profiles. 32 percent of the NPD followers were also active on the part of the AfD.

“Prepare the ground for radicalization”

Felix Kartte from Reset said in conversation with, of course Telegram is a problem. But the really big platforms “are first preparing the ground for radicalization in the pandemic and making a much larger audience accessible to anti-democratic ideas”.

Upon request from A meta-spokeswoman said about the criticism of Reset: “Since the beginning of the pandemic it has been our goal to disseminate reliable information about Covid-19, to take decisive action against misinformation and to encourage people to vaccinate. We are continuously looking for and removing content and Deactivate accounts, pages or groups that violate our community guidelines and work continuously to improve our technology to ensure a safe experience on our platforms and to keep harmful content off Instagram and Facebook. ”

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