Hundreds of police officers belong to extremist Facebook groups, investigation finds (updated)

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More than 50 U.S. police departments are now investigating.

More than 50 U.S. police departments are conducting internal investigations after a report revealed that hundreds of police officers–both active and former–belong to extremist Facebook groups.

The investigation, spearheaded by Reveal News, uncovered that around 400 police officers belong to groups that promote racism, Islamophobia, and anti-government militia groups.

At least one officer has been fired as a result of the report. Some of the police departments currently investigating are looking into whether the respective officer’s extremist online behavior has affected their behavior on the job.

Some of the extremist groups included in the report are dubbed “White Lives Matter” and “Death to Islam Undercover.” At least 150 of the police officers in question belong to anti-government and militia movement groups, like the “Oath Keepers” and the “Three Percenters.”

Some of these police officers share anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes, as well as conspiracy theories via the groups.

The police officers are either active members of these groups or operate the groups–and even recruit their fellow police officers to join the groups. Most of the groups are closed.

The police officers in question belong to both small, rural area police departments, as well as large, urban area police departments–such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments.

One police officer, alone, belongs to a whopping 56 extremist groups–including 45 Confederate groups.

Update 4:56pm CT, June 17: A Facebook spokesperson told the Daily Dot that the platform continues to ban organizations and individuals that break its policies–specifically its policies on hate speech in this case.

“Hate has no place on Facebook,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement. “We want everyone using Facebook to feel safe, that’s why we have community standards against hate speech and hate organizations–these policies apply across Facebook, including in groups.”

Facebook defines hate speech as a direct attack on people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.

In May, a report came out suggesting that white nationalist groups are finding loopholes to the white nationalism and separatism May Facebook ban. One of the loopholes used by these groups is to continue operations on the platform under a new guise.

In May, a Facebook spokesperson told the Daily Dot that the platform knows its efforts to remove white supremacist material aren’t perfect.

When enforcing the white supremacist and nationalist ban, Facebook looks for explicit rather than implicit statements–which makes it difficult to analyze the content. The spokesperson said Facebook’s policy team has been working to better understand white nationalist hate symbols and slogans.

“We proactively look for bad actors and investigate concerns when they are raised. We are continually reviewing activity on our platform for potential violation of our policies and will take action in line with our community standards,” the spokesperson said at the time.

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H/T Reveal News

Eilish O'Sullivan

Eilish O'Sullivan

Eilish O'Sullivan is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot studying journalism and government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle and the Daily Texan.