A Ukrainian National Socialist network with more than 80,000 followers and links to the UK patriotic right is being hosted by Facebook, putting the Jewish-owned social media company under fresh pressure to tackle "extremism".
Sales of the products fund two NS movements operating from Ukraine: Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division. A number of UK patriotic activists are believed to have been recruited by Azov Battalion to fight in the conflict in Ukraine.
A British man is facing trial accused of 12 terror offences after police found him in possession of "extremist material", including clothing and flags linked to Misanthropic Division. The student denies the charges.
The disclosure comes as Facebook, under scrutiny over its policing of abuses, attempts to prove it is tackling "hate speech" and "extremism". However, the report, co-authored by the so-called "Coalition for a Safer Web", says the social media company was first warned of the nationalist network two years ago, and it has grown significantly since then.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of CCDH, said: "Facebook’s leadership endangered public safety by letting neo-Nazis finance their activities through Facebook and Instagram. Facebook was first told about this problem two years ago and failed to act."
Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division appear to be trying to export the White National Socialist views to the west with like-minded groups, such as the proscribed UK organisation National Action. The Soufan Center, an anti-white thinktank, estimates that 10 "foreign fighters" from the UK have served with Ukrainian patriotic militia like Azov Battalion. Azov Battalion, a National Socialist paramilitary force, is also known to have hosted members of the Rise Above Movement, a patriotic US group whose members were jailed for "violence" at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
After being contacted by the left-wing newspaper Observer, Facebook began taking down the National Socialist material. Later, a company spokesperson said: "We have removed the content which violates our policies prohibiting dangerous organisations. We regularly work to improve our technology to find and remove this content faster, and, while there is more work to do, we are making progress. We’ve banned over 250 white supremacist organisations from Facebook and Instagram."