As white supremacist groups get thrown off of Facebook and Twitter, it seems they have found a refuge in Google Plus.
According to The Hill, there are “dozens” of Google Plus communities dedicated to promoting white supremacist thought despite Google’s anti-discrimination policies.
Alphabet's Google Plus policy forbids “content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics.”
The rules acknowledge that deciding what content violates the policy “can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line.”
A quick search of the platform shows numerous pages that contradict this policy.
The article states some of the Google Plus groups are active, while others appear abandoned. Those no longer being updated still contain links to extremist websites and forums. When we searched using the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalism,” groups advocating “white power” and those with KKK affiliations popped up.
We also saw memes that encouraged white people to inflict violence on black people. One meme shows a picture of a protester holding a sign reading “they can’t kill us all” juxtaposed with a picture of a KKK member holding a shotgun with the word “challenge accepted” printed on it.
The Hill found a picture of a white man with a gun drawn on a black toddler.
Google sent a statement to The Hill expressing its commitment to fighting discrimination.
“We have clear policies against violent content as well as content from known terrorist organizations and when we find violations, we take swift action,” the statement read in part.
“We have a team dedicated to keeping violent content and hate speech off our platforms, including Google+. And while we recognize we have more to do, we’re committed to getting this right.”
While the groups are small and Google Plus isn’t as popular as its competitors, Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, believes users should remain alert.
“The community and the recruitment happens there. Whether it’s Google Plus, Twitter or other platforms, it’s significant,” Segal said. “We’ve seen how online activity leads to real-world consequences.”
Harvard researcher Jonas Kaiser noted the sites were not accessible via Google in Germany (due to German law) meaning the company is at least aware of the groups.
“If there is good news, it’s that the member size is relatively small in comparison to what you see on YouTube in regard to views [of white nationalist videos],” he said.
“Impact wise, it’s hard to specify on specific platforms. They are all connected to each other in one way or another. Google Plus links to YouTube videos and LiveJournal links,” he added. “They’re all just one piece of the bigger map of the far-right ecosystem.”
Google did not comment on Kaiser’s findings.