Groups say Google Plus ignored flagged posts of extremist content

Groups say Google Plus ignored flagged posts of extremist content
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Google has ignored warnings about pro-ISIS content on its social media platform, Google Plus, according to users who flagged posts to the company and an expert who said he flagged the content directly to Google.

Despite those actions, a trio of pro-ISIS communities were active on Google Plus on Wednesday after the company was notified of them more than nine months ago.

The company removed the groups from Google Plus between Wednesday and Thursday after The Hill asked about them.

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The largest pro-terror community, called Victory of the Sunnis of Iraq, was initially reported by a member of the Google Plus community called Freedom+.

Victory of the Sunni’s of Iraq has 738 members on Google Plus and has posted content from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's official media outlet, Al Bayan Radio, as well as other pro-terror content as recently as last week.

A Freedom+ user told The Hill that the group was created to flag and mass report pro-ISIS communities like Victory of the Sunni's in Iraq, but said that their reporting often went ignored by Google.

Ty Joplin, a researcher based in Amman, Jordan, who reviewed and translated the community for The Hill, described the group as an anti-Shia and pro-Sunni jihadist forum that vowed to “wipe every Shia city off the map” and “repel Jewish and western crusaders.”

Google Plus’s user policy specifically bars pro-terrorist content.

Eric Feinberg, founder of the Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center, told The Hill he also flagged the presence of pro-ISIS content on Google Plus.

Feinberg said that he and his staff had a conference call with a Google representative in March in which links to extremist content on Google Plus were provided to the company.

At a follow-up meeting in Google’s New York office later that month in which Feinberg pitched selling his extremist detection tools to the company, similar content was flagged.

“They literally said to us that they don’t really have a [counterterrorism] team on Google Plus. They have a YouTube team and that’s it,” Feinberg said.

Google acknowledged in a statement that it can improve its enforcement of extremist content and that it treats such matters seriously.

“As we've said previously, we take these issues incredibly seriously. We have clear policies against violent content as well as content from known terrorist organizations and when we find violations, we take swift action,” a Google spokesperson told The Hill. “And while we recognize we have more to do, we're committed to getting this right."

According to Feinberg, many of the links to extremist content he gave directly to Google representatives were not taken down from Google Plus in the two months following the meeting.

Google challenged this, saying that it does have a team in place “dedicated to keeping violent content and hate speech off our platforms, including Google+.”

The Hill last week reported on the significant amounts of easily accessible ISIS propaganda on Google Plus, some of which calls on sympathizers to carry out lone wolf attacks.

Barak Mendelsohn, a terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Haverford College, warned that if left alone such content on Google Plus can be a gateway for potential extremists.

“Obviously any such online content could serve as an ‘in’ and jihadis (particularly ISIS) would like to have as many avenues as possible to reach potential recruits,” he explained over email.