Facebook’s “suggested friends” feature is helping jihadists around the world connect with one another to forge new terror networks, according to a new study.
Researchers with the not-for-profit Counter Extremism Project studied the social media habits of 1,000 ISIS supporters in 96 countries and found that extremists were “routinely introduced” to each other on the platform, The Telegraph reported about the study.
“Facebook, in their desire to connect as many people as possible have inadvertently created a system which helps connect extremists and terrorists,” said Robert Postings, one of the researchers.
The social media giant automatically collects information about its users that is used to connect people with shared interests, the paper reported. But this also allows ISIS supporters to contact and communicate with fellow sympathizers, researchers found.
Gregory Waters, one of the authors of the study, told the paper he was bombarded with pro-ISIS friends’ suggestions after contacting one active extremist on the site.
After clicking on news pages about an Islamist uprising in the Philippines, Postings said he was inundated with friends’ suggestions of extremists in the region.
Out of the 1,000 terrorism-supporting profiles examined, fewer than half were suspended by Facebook six months later, the study found.
Additionally, even when posts containing terrorism-related materials were removed, the user was often allowed to stay on the site.
“This project has laid bare Facebook’s inability or unwillingness to efficiently address extremist content on their site,” Waters said.
“The failure to effectively police its platform has allowed Facebook to become a place where extensive IS supporting networks exist, propaganda is disseminated people are radicalized and new supporters are recruited.”
A Facebook rep told the paper “there is no place for terrorists on Facebook.”
There is “no easy technical fix to fight online extremism” but Facebook has an automated system to remove ISIS and Al Qaeda-related content, according to the company.
“We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism,” the spokesman said.
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.