Facebook has removed pages of the heavy-metal bands SoldierSS of Evil, Whitelaw, and Frangar for violating the platform’s hate speech policies.
The ban follows a new Al Jazeera investigation that identified 120 Facebook pages — with a total of over 800,000 likes — of mostly heavy-metal bands and record labels with direct ties to white supremacist ideology. Al Jazeera flagged five of these pages to Facebook for breaking the platform’s hate speech rules by displaying white supremacist ideology, but two are still under review.
According to Al Jazeera, the majority of the pages have been online for years, actively posting updates and advertising their merchandise, sometimes using white supremacist imagery. One of the bands whose infringing page is still up is M8l8th, a black metal music act from Ukraine whose full name means “Hitler’s Hammer.”
The band’s founder has ties to far-right nationalist movements and the band uses Nazi propaganda in its songs, such as parts of a speech by Joseph Goebbels and the official anthem of the Nazi party, Horst Wessel-Lied.
Yarno Ritzen, the journalist who led Al Jazeera’s investigation, told TNW that they only flagged five of the pages, but Facebook should be aware of all 120 as most examples were simply found through ‘Related pages.’
“So it shouldn’t be too hard for Facebook to identify the majority of these pages by going down its own rabbit hole,” Ritzen wrote in reply to TNW.
The bigger bands on the list are smarter about obscuring their obvious ties with racist ideologies — like trying to blur some of the content that goes against Facebook’s policies, such as swastikas, SS logos, etc. — but others remain flagrantly racist. SoldierSS of Evil’s lyrical themes are, for example, commonly categorized as “National Socialism, Antisemitism,” so TNW asked Facebook why it hadn’t removed the pages years earlier.
We’ve yet to receive a reply, but Ritzen points out that Facebook frequently talks up its algorithm and moderators for catching a lot of hateful content — but this doesn’t appear to be as effective as the company would like to believe, given that some of these pages have been online for a decade.
In a statement to Al Jazeera’s inquiries, a Facebook spokesperson said that hate speech is not allowed on the platform — including white supremacist content — and that the company would continue to improve its technologies and policies to remove hate from its platform.
“Unfortunately zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero incidents. We have removed three of these Pages for breaking our rules and are reviewing the remaining two against our policies,” the spokesperson told Al Jazeera.
Facebook boycotted for hate speech
Al Jazeera’s revelation comes just a week after more than 500 advertisers announcing they were boycotting Facebook for not responding sufficiently to hate speech on its platform.
That didn’t seem to phase Mark Zuckerberg though. In an internal Facebook meeting, the company CEO said “my guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.”
While boycotting companies include some major names such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Target, they are not the biggest spenders on the platform. Only three out of the top 25 ad spenders joined the boycott, which might explain Zuckerberg’s bravado response.
“We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue,” Zuckerberg said in the internal meeting, according to The Information.
While COO Sheryl Sandberg says the company “stands firmly against hate” and Facebook’s anti-hate speech measures are being improved, Zuckerberg’s comments beg the question as to how seriously the company takes the issue if it doesn’t affect its bottom line.