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Islam and Politics ( 10 Dec 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Endorsing Anti-Muslim Bigotry for Profit: Facebook and Amazon Help Fund Hate Groups

By Sultan M Hali

11 December 2019

There have been numerous Islamophobic and anti-Muslim incidents in the near past. On 15 March 2019, a white supremacist walked into two different mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and killed 50 Muslim worshippers and injured another 50. The gunman live-streamed the gruesome attacks on Facebook Live and prefaced the attacks with a 73-page manifesto he distributed immediately prior to the attacks. The manifesto was littered with white supremacist rhetoric from books such as The Turner Diaries (which is available on Amazon), anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and neo-Nazi symbols, and it specifically cited US President Donald Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.

The Christchurch mosque shootings provide clear evidence that the rise of white nationalism and anti-Muslim bigotry in the USA has global consequences. The research organisation, Crescendo, a project of Action Centre on Race and the Economy (ACRE) Institute, a public accountability initiative, has highlighted the role that Big Tech platforms, Wall Street firms, and right-wing media corporations have played in fanning the flames of white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry in the USA and abroad. Some extracts have been placed here.

Even a casual glance at the findings of the Institution named above disclose that Big Tech platforms— like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon— provide spaces for white supremacists to spread their propaganda. Furthermore, their algorithms serve to push users farther to the right by recommending even more white supremacist and anti-Muslim content. In the case of the Christchurch shooting, the live-stream video of the mass murder was duplicated and circulated by other users on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube, which is owned by Google. Regrettably, these platforms did not take sufficient action to prevent the video from spreading. This is part of a larger pattern that these platforms have exhibited of putting profits before principle and enabling white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry in order to pad their bottom lines.

Facebook and Twitter have contributed greatly to the spread of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence by providing spaces for white supremacists to build a community and plan violent attacks. These platforms have protected hate speech targeting Muslims and other people of colour and worked with government and private actors to spread anti-Muslim and white supremacist propaganda.

Google-owned YouTube plays a key role in exposing young people to white supremacist ideology and anti-Muslim propaganda. In particular, the ‘auto-play’ function of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm “promotes, recommends, and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes,” according to sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, who has studied YouTube. For example, searching for the word “refugees” on YouTube, leads users to the channels of prominent anti-Muslim influencers. This is a profit-driven mechanism since YouTube is owned by Google, which makes its money off advertising. The longer users stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes.

As with YouTube, Amazon’s recommendations algorithm also points customers who search for white supremacist books to even more white supremacist propaganda. The Christchurch killer’s manifesto shows that he was heavily influenced by the white supremacist terrorist group, The Order, which took its name from a novel called The Turner Diaries. Members of the group refer to the novel as their bible, and the novel has inspired more than a dozen separate hate crimes and terrorist plots. The Turner Diaries is readily available for purchase on Amazon. Furthermore, Amazon’s recommendations algorithm points customers who visit the book’s page to even more white supremacist and Nazi propaganda.

Alarmingly, both Facebook and Amazon help fund hate groups. Facebook’s Fundraiser tool allows anti-Muslim groups like the Christian Action Network and Centre for Security Policy to raise money from Facebook users. Through its AmazonSmile programme, Amazon itself donates money to anti-Muslim organisations like the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

If that were not cause for enough concern, Wall Street firms also play an important role in mainstreaming and enabling anti-Muslim hate and violence by providing bad actors with the funds they need to function. Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Vanguard, and Goldman Sachs have allowed wealthy investors to anonymously donate millions of dollars to anti-Muslim hate groups through their donor-advised funds (DAFs).

Manhattan Institute: A group of hedge fund managers and other prominent business leaders are effectively endorsing anti-Muslim bigotry through their work with the Manhattan Institute, a rightwing think tank. Just hours after the Christchurch shooting, the Manhattan Institute’s magazine, the City Journal, published an article entitled “Don’t Exploit Christchurch,” denying that the attacks were motivated by white supremacy and contending that the killer’s obsession with Muslim immigration was a “legitimate concern.” This was just the latest in a long list of anti-Muslim articles that the City Journal has been publishing for more than 10 years. Even though the Manhattan Institute has ties to the far right, it is allowed to operate in the mainstream of New York’s politics, because its board members hail from prominent Wall Street firms like Elliott Management, Bluff.

The Christchurch shooter reportedly used five guns for his attack, including a semi-automatic AR-15. Wall Street firms including Black Rock, JPMorgan Chase, Renaissance Technologies, and Wells Fargo financially prop up corporations like Remington and Smith & Wesson, which manufacture AR-15-style rifles. The firms that invest in and finance the operations of these gun manufacturers are complicit in all mass shootings, including the Christchurch attack. They knowingly invest hundreds of millions of dollars into an industry that makes it profits based on how many deadly weapons it can sell to civilians, even if those weapons are used in mosques full of people.

Original Headline: Endorsing anti-Muslim bigotry for profit

Source: The Pakistan Today