Election fraud ads allowed on Facebook; hate speech spikes during war – USA TODAY

The week in extremism, from USA TODAY.


Hate and extremism, particularly antisemitism and islamophobia, continue to run rampant on social media and in real life as the Israel-Hamas war drags on. Meanwhile, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has decided to allow political ads claiming the 2020 election was rigged, according to new reports. And as one new Jan. 6 defendant appears in court, a Capitol rioter who already served time in prison says he’s running for Congress.

It’s the week in extremism.

Antisemitism, islamophobia still spiking as war continues

As USA TODAY has reported for the last month, hate-fueled incidents, both online and in real-life, have been spiking across the country since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. That trend continued this week, with increased impacts to American Jewish and Muslim communities.

  • On Thursday, Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, a community college professor from Moorpark, California, was taken into custody on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. Paul Kessler, a Jewish protester, died after falling and hitting his head during an altercation at a protest earlier this month. The death was investigated as a hate crime, but prosecutors have not said whether hate crime charges will be brought.
  • TikTok posts circulating this week also promoted a years-old letter by Osama bin Laden – architect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – which criticized America’s support of Israel. TikTok reportedly minimized the posts amid cries of antisemitism. 
  • A report released this week by the Tech Transparency Project found that white supremacists have been using “blue checkmark” accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter, to spread anti-Muslim, antisemitic and anti-immigrant narratives. Researchers found dozens of premium X accounts sharing memes and hateful messages that often violate X’s terms of service.
  • The Anti-Defamation League also reported this week that in the month since the Hamas attack against Israel, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 316 percent compared to the same time period last year. 

My colleague Jessica Guynn also wrote this week about an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor who attempted to use TikTok to inform a new generation about his experience, but who had to close down his account after being targeted by a torrent of antisemitic abuse.

Meta to allow election denial ads

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has changed course and will allow political advertising that questions the validity of the 2020 Presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. 

  • The company will allow paid ads that claim the 2020 election was “rigged” or “stolen” but will not allow advertisers to question future elections, the Journal reported.
  • Unnamed sources told the Journal the updated policy “is part of a number of changes Meta has made that might fundamentally alter its influence and reach compared with in past elections, including a move to adjust its algorithm in a way that de-emphasizes organic political content on Facebook.”
  • Earlier this year, YouTube reversed its “election integrity” policy and started leaving up content that questions the integrity of the 2020 election.    

One insurrection defendant in court, another runs for Congress

Army investigators reported alleged Jan. 6 participant Gregory Yetman to the FBI more than two years ago, but he was only arrested late last week and made his first court appearance on Monday. Meanwhile, Jacob Chansley, who became one of the most recognizable participants in the Jan. 6 riots, has filed paperwork to run for Congress in his home state of Arizona.

  • Yetman, who gave himself up to police last Friday after a two-day search near his home, appeared in court Monday to face charges. Court documents filed in the case reveal Yetman was identified to the FBI shortly after the insurrection by Army investigators. 
  • Yetman had been publicly identified in a USA TODAY investigation in March that examined the more than 100 Jan. 6 suspects who could be identified from the FBI’s “Wanted” photographs, but had not yet been charged.

Meanwhile, Jacob Chansley, who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 shirtless in a furry horned hat, has filed paperwork to run for Congress in Arizona. Chansley was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in the insurrection.

Statistic of the week: 60 days

That’s how long the Chicago Police Department has to respond before a new policy takes effect, banning the city’s police officers from joining extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

The policy was enacted Monday by Chicago’s Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability.


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