It’s not just terrorist incitement and hate speech: social media users can also find detailed bomb-making instructions and how-to videos on Facebook and YouTube, according to a new investigation by The Times of the UK, which reports that in at least some cases these videos have remained online even after being flagged.
The Times investigation comes just days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester, UK, prompting a new round of scrutiny and criticism directed at social media platforms.
The bomb-making guides included instructions on how to build deadly explosives including nail bombs and devices incorporating ricin, a highly toxic chemical agent derived from castor beans.
In one case The Times found and reported a Facebook page advocating jihad, hosted by a masked Islamist extremist, which offered bomb-making instructions – but Facebook declined to remove it, saying it had not violated the social network’s “community standards.”
It’s not just Facebook, as the same investigation turned up dozens of bomb-making videos on YouTube, including a 22-minute video which provided “step-by-step” instructions on how to build a bomb using the chemical acetone peroxide as the explosive and ball bearings for shrapnel; terrorists used the same chemical in bombs detonated in Paris in 2016 and Brussels in 2016.
The findings of The Times’ investigation are sure to stir controversy, coming as the UK and other national governments raise the pressure on social media companies to do more to combat violent extremist messages on their platforms.
Also this week, the British government demanded that security services receive access to encrypted messages sent on social media to facilitate their counter-terrorism efforts.
Following a previous Islamist terrorist attack which killed five people in London in March, it was revealed that the assailant, Khalid Masood, used social messaging app WhatsApp just before starting his attack.
Parliament is considering legislation that will force social media companies like Facebook, owner of WhatsApp, to provide de-encrypted access on demand.As noted in a previous post, European Union officials are readying a crackdown on illicit content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, including hate speech and terrorist incitement.
This requirement, part of a revision of the EU’s existing Audiovisual Media Services Directive first issued last year, would apply only to posted videos, not live streaming content.