Time for tech companies to say ‘no’ to Farrakhan’s brand of hate

Google and social-media outlets must back up their statements with action and demonstrate that hate, prejudice and cleverly veiled incitements to violence will not be welcome online.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Source: Twitter.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Source: Twitter.
Josh Lipowsky

The “white man,” according to Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, is “worthy to be hated. Worthy because of the evil that he does!”

The quote is from a July 2016 radio interview posted to Twitter. That tweet has since received more than 10,000 “Likes” and has been retweeted more than 10,000 times. For decades, Farrakhan has openly espoused anti-white, anti-gay and anti-Semitic views in interviews and public appearances. In recent years, social media has given his abhorrent propaganda a new and greater reach. It is long past time that tech companies took decisive action to eliminate Farrakhan’s brand of hate speech from their sites.

Last year, YouTube parent company Google took a significant step forward in its anti-extremism campaign by removing the sermons and lectures of Al Qaeda operative and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, whose incendiary rhetoric radicalized and inspired horrific acts of terrorism in the United States and in Europe. Farrakhan’s brand of racist and homophobic rhetoric posted to YouTube similarly promotes an ideology of hate capable of inciting violence against targeted groups, in clear violation of the terms of service rules of both Twitter and Google.

YouTube’s hate-speech policy expressly forbids content with the “primary purpose of inciting hatred of individuals or groups based on … race or ethnic origin, religion, [and] sexual orientation.” Twitter forbids “specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.” Farrakhan’s speeches have certainly espoused and encouraged hatred of specific ethnic and religious groups. And while he may stop short of ordering acts of violence from his legions of followers, he has certainly expressed his “wish” for it.

Twitter partially acknowledged this in June when it removed Farrakhan’s verified user status after a June 6 tweet accusing Jews of belonging to “the synagogue of Satan.” Nevertheless, Farrakhan has continued to use Twitter to reach out to his more than 330,000 followers. On June 21, he tweeted a video of one of his speeches from earlier this year in which he accused international Jewry of infiltrating nations and subverting their sovereignty through financial control. In a video tweeted out on Sept. 18, Farrakhan declared that the “enemy” gave black people a “white Jesus” to worship so that black people would worship the enemy’s image. In another a video clip posted to Farrakhan’s Twitter account on Sept. 20, he declared that America has to “pay for its sins,” and hurricanes Florence, Harvey and Maria—and all of the death and destruction they wrought—were Divine retribution.

During a May 28, 2018, address posted to YouTube, Farrakhan assailed “the white man” as “not in harmony with the nature of God,” and argued that Jewish religious texts promote “poison and deceit.” In the same speech, he labeled both gay marriage and Jews as satanic. The video has so far received more than 220,000 views, despite clearly violating YouTube’s policy against inciting hatred based on race, religion and sexual orientation—all in one speech.

Further, while not calling for specific acts of violence, Farrakhan has embraced the legitimacy and necessity of violence. During a 2016 radio interview posted to Twitter, he declared that there “is no freedom without the shedding of blood. … Non-violence is not going to bring the land back to us.” In a 2014 video posted to YouTube, he encouraged his followers to teach their babies to throw their bottles because “you may not want to fight, but you better get ready,” while threatening to “tear this goddamn country up.”

Farrakhan’s brand of hatred and scapegoating is reaching and influencing millions because of the amplifying power of social media. His Facebook page alone has more than 1 million followers, while the Nation of Islam’s YouTube account has received more than 1 million views since its creation in March 2017.

Google’s decision to remove the lectures and sermons of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was a step in the right direction in terms of enforcing its stated rules. But enforcement cannot be a one-time demonstration; it must be consistently carried out to be effective. Google and other tech companies must back up their statements with action and demonstrate that hate, prejudice and cleverly veiled incitements to violence will not be welcome online.

Farrakhan must not be allowed to broadcast his hate and venom. Take him down.

Josh Lipowsky is a senior research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project.


The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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