November 30, 2022

Senate Criticizes Tech Industry For Failing To Monitor Extremists Online

According to a new Senate report, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are failing to moderate online extremists adequately.

The report, released on Wednesday, called on federal law enforcement to reevaluate its response to the growing threat of terrorism and extremism. 

The Senate has called out social media platforms for failing to stop the spread of violent and anti-government propaganda online, which has increased over recent years. 

Harmful extremism circulating online 

Recent incidents have led many to question the violent consequences of social media, which has seen more people embrace extremist content online under the guise of “free speech.”

According to the report, growing domestic extremism online has been linked to the country’s widening political divide and general mistrust in government and institutions. Additionally, the design of social media networks has made it easier for people to effectively remain anonymous online while still perpetuating violent and extremist content. 

In 2019, a white supremacist gunman killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket with a mounted GoPro camera on his helmet. The gunman could live stream the ordeal on Twitch throughout the attack without limitations. 

report released by the New York Attorney General’s office slammed the dark web for “radicalizing” the suspect, which led him to carry out such violent attacks.

The report also highlights the spread of hate speech and racist stereotypes fuel the problem and sometimes leads to real-world violence. 

Read: The Violent Consequences Of Social Media Disinformation Against Asian American Communities

Not only does a lack of moderation lead to many being exposed to death and desensitized to it, but it also opens the door for harmful racial stereotypes against minority communities to spread online. 

After the emergence of Covid-19, many people from the Asian community were targeted due to the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories that stemmed from social media. 

How do we stop this problem?

The report recommends a few measures must be carried out to prevent this problem from getting worse. 

According to the report, new definitions of extremism must be treated and shared between agencies. There also needs to be an improved approach to reporting crimes linked to white supremacy and more safeguarding options to prevent children from being targeted by terrorist and extremist groups online. 

“The rise in domestic terrorism can be partially attributed to the proliferation of extremist content on social media platforms and the failure of companies to effectively limit it in favor of action that increases engagement on their platforms,” the report concluded. 

Platforms such as Twitter have shown that the future of social media is a dangerous fantasy, mainly since Musk’s “free speech” campaign has led to an increase in hate speech on the platform. 

If social media platforms ignore the increasing extremism, will social media ever be a safe space for Black and Brown people? 

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Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a tech reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.