Neo-Nazi rockers with swastika tattoos and Insane Clown Posse-like makeup. Album art showing the gates of Auschwitz. Songs longing for a “pure f—ing genocide.” For years, Facebook has allowed bands centered on this content a home on their platform — but now the social media giant is racing to remove them.
An investigation by Al Jazeera uncovered over 120 pages featuring neo-Nazi music groups — most of them heavy metal acts — and their labels; altogether, the pages collected over 800,000 likes. After Al Jazeera sent five examples to Facebook, the site removed three for being in breach of Facebook’s hate speech policy; the other two are under review. Al Jazeera claims that many other pages found in their audit were found to violate the policy.
The bulk of the pages have been online for years, actively advertising upcoming concerts, music and merchandise. One group, M8l8th, a black metal band from the Ukraine, samples remarks from Joseph Goebbels and the Nazi anthem the “Horst Wessel-Lied” in their songs. The group was founded by Alexey Levkin, an organizer of Asgardsrei, a neo-Nazi musical festival in Kyiv. Pages for a number of headliners at that festival were also found on Facebook.
While many bands eschewed sharing their more controversial content on the platform, Al Jazeera indicated that Volrisch, a Mexican band, used an album cover showing the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau as its Facebook cover photo. The artwork shows a track list with English song titles like “Jewish Plague” and “New Holocaust.”
Other bands such as Leibstandarte (named for Hitler’s personal SS bodyguard), Kristalnacht and Einsatzgruppen (the Nazis’ mobile killing squad) also remained active on the site. So did Peste Noire, a French band that, only last year, unveiled an album showing their lead singer in a lifted Klan hood threatening another man — actually himself, in blackface — with a noose.
Al Jazeera’s findings come at a time when Facebook is facing increased pressure from civil rights groups and advertisers to scrub hateful material from its feed. Over 400 advertisers, including major brands like Coca-Cola and Starbucks, pulled advertising for the month of July at the behest of the group Stop Hate for Profit.
In response, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with the boycott leaders this week. The civil rights organizations present, including the Anti-Defamation League, were not encouraged by what they heard.
“It was abundantly clear in our meeting today that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform,” the leaders said in a statement. “Zuckerberg offered the same old defense of white supremacist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and other hateful groups on Facebook that the Stop Hate For Profit Coalitions, advertisers and society at large have heard too many times before.”
The company didn’t fare much better with their newly-released internal audit, which was compiled by civil rights experts over two years. In its opening remarks, the document claimed that the social media company remains “too reactive and piecemeal,” in addressing civil rights, leaving many in the civil rights community “disheartened, frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression.”
Facebook had previously committed to a zero tolerance policy on white supremacist content in 2019.
“Unfortunately zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero incidents,” the company said in a statement to the New York Post. “We will continue to improve our technologies, evolve our policies, and work with experts to identify and remove hate from our platform.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com
Over 120 Neo-Nazi band pages found active on Facebook