Facebook Inc. keeps a blacklist of 4,000 people and groups it deems a threat to national security, according to a report published by The Intercept today. What it contains has so far remained mostly a secret.
The list of “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations,” now seen by The Intercept, seems to be in line with U.S. foreign policy and includes people linked to terrorist activities, hate crime, militarized social movements and criminal organizations.
The company has three tiers, with the first tier considered the most dangerous. Those belonging to this tier are deemed capable of causing “serious offline harm” and include terrorist organizations and organized crime. The people or groups on this list are mainly related to Middle Eastern and South Asian organizations or serious crime groups and gangs in the U.S.
Tier two mainly consists of what Facebook calls “Violent Non-State Actors.” These people are considered dangerous abroad and could include rebel groups in certain conflicts. Facebook says it will permit some support of these groups as long as that is not “praise of these groups’ violent activities.”
Tier 3 is the home mostly to groups that according to the Intercept is made up of “mostly right-wing American anti-government militias.” They might show the possible intent to commit harm but “have not necessarily engaged in violence to date or advocated for violence against others based on their protected characteristics.” It also includes people who support conspiracy movements such as QAnon.
In total, 53.7% of the blacklist relates to terrorism, 23.3% consists of militarized social movements, 17% consists of hate groups, 4.9% criminal enterprises and only 1% violent nonstate actors.
“But as with other attempts to limit personal freedoms in the name of counterterrorism, Facebook’s DIO policy has become an unaccountable system that disproportionately punishes certain communities, critics say,” wrote The Intercept. It added that entities on the list include “politicians, writers, charities, hospitals, hundreds of music acts, and long-dead historical figures.”
In the interests of transparency and public interest, Facebook has reportedly been asked to publish the list many times over but has always refused to do so. The company’s Oversight Board has made this request, which has also been rebuffed.
The criticism aimed at Facebook is that it punishes some people for aligning with certain movements and yet doesn’t tell anyone what those movements are. Nonetheless, experts agree that without such a list Facebook would be blamed for acting with negligence.