Network, Text, and Image Analysis of Anti-Muslim Groups on Facebook



Published Aug 28, 2019


Islamophobic attitudes and overt acts of hostility toward Muslims in the United States are increasingly commonplace. The goal of this research is to begin to understand how anti-Muslim political groups use the Facebook social network to build their online communities and perpetuate their beliefs. We used the public Facebook Graph API to create a large dataset of 700,204 members of 1,870 Facebook groups spanning 10 different far-right ideologies during the time period June 2017 - March 2018. We first applied social network analysis techniques to discover which groups and ideologies shared members with anti-Muslim groups during this period. Our results show that the anti-Muslim Facebook network has unique characteristics when compared to other categories of far-right extremism. We then assessed 202 anti-Muslim Facebook group cover photos and descriptions for evidence of Islamophobic content. Results indicate that these anti-Muslim groups rely on a predictable collection of visual and linguistic cues to propagate negative stereotypes about Muslims, and that the vast majority of these groups rely heavily on symbols and language that portray Islam as a violent enemy which is deserving of violence and hostility in return. By understanding the important role Islamophobia plays in the hate ecosystem on Facebook, social media users and platform providers can be better prepared to confront and condemn anti-Muslim bias.

Abstract 612 | PDF Downloads 401


[1] Institute for Social Policy & Understanding, "American Muslim Poll 2018: Key Findings", April 26, 2018,
[2] Pew Research Center, "U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream", July 26, 2017, content/uploads/sites/11/2017/07/09105631/U.S.-MUSLIMS-FULL-REPORT-with-population-update-v2.pdf
[3] United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, "2016 Hate Crime Statistics", hate-crime
[4] Kopan, T.: On immigration, Trump has plenty to show in 100 days. CNN. April 27, 2017. 27/politics/trump-100-days-immigration/index.html, last accessed 2018/05/01.
[5] Ali, S.S., Gostanian, A., Silva, D.: ACT for America rally. NBC. June 10, 2017., last accessed 2018/05/01.
[6] Proud Boys Magazine: June 10th March Against Sharia,, last accessed 2018/05/08.
[7] Hauslohner, A., Moyer, J.W. (2017). Anti-sharia demonstrators hold rallies in cities across the country. Washington Post. June 10. the-country-saturday/2017/06/10/40faf61e-4d6f-11e7-a186-60c031eab644_story.html, last accessed 2018/05/01.
[8] Pilkington, E. (2017). Anti-sharia laws proliferate as Trump strikes hostile tone toward Muslims. The Guardian. December 30., last accessed 2018/05/05.
[9] Ktiely, N. and E. Bruneau. (2017). Backlash: The Politics and Real-World Consequences of Minority Group Dehumanization, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 43(1), pp. 87-104.
[10] Kearns, E., A. Betus, and A. Lemieux, (2018). "Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?", April 28, Justice Quarterly, Forthcoming.
[11] Kurzman, C. and D. Schanzer, "Law Enforcement Assessment of the Violent Extremist Threat", Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, June 25, 2015,
[12] Squire, M. (2018). Analyzing Far-Right Extremist Facebook Group Co-Membership During the "Summer of Hate", 4th Intl Conf Computational Social Science (IC2S2), Evanston, IL USA. July 14.
[13] Squire, M. (2019). Which way to the wheat field? Women of the radical right on Facebook. In Proc. 52nd Hawaii Intl conf. sys sci. (HICSS52). Jan 9-11.
[14] Southern Poverty Law Center: Ideologies., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[15] The Anti-Defamation League: Alt Right: A Primer about the New White Supremacy., last accessed 2018/04/24
[16] Southern Poverty Law Center: Anti-Muslim., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[17] The Anti-Defamation League: Anti-Muslim Bigotry. backgrounders/anti-muslim-bigotry, last accessed 2018/04/24
[18] Southern Poverty Law Center: Neo-Confederate., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[19] Hague, E., Beirich, H., Sebesta, E.H. (2009). Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX, USA.
[20] Southern Poverty Law Center: Active Patriot Groups in the US in 2016., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[21] The Anti-Defamation League: The "Patriot" movement., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[22] The Anti-Defamation League: Defining Extremism: A Glossary of Anti-Government Extremist Terms, Movements and Philosophies., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[23] Southern Poverty Law Center: Anti-Immigrant., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[24]. The Anti-Defamation League. Education resources on immigration, immigrants and anti-immigrant bias., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[25] Southern Poverty Law Center: White Nationalist., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[26] Southern Poverty Law Center: Ku Klux Klan., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[27] Southern Poverty Law Center: Neo-Volkisch., last accessed 2018/04/24.
[28] Elsheikh, E., B. Sisemore and N.R. Lee. (2017). Legalizing Othering: The United States of Islamophobia. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, U. of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, September.
[29] Bleich, E., (2011). What is Islamophobia and how much is there? Theorizing and measuring an emerging comparative concept. American Behavioral Scientist 55(12), 1581-1600.
[30] Runnymede Commission. (1997). Islamophobia: A challenge for us all.
[31] Runnymeade Commission. (2018). Islamophobia: Still a challenge for us all.
[32] Gottschalk, P. and G. Greenberg. (2018). Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy (2nd Ed). Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, MD, USA.
[33] Kumar, D. (2012). Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Haymarket Books: Chicago, IL, USA.
[34] Hafez, F. (2014). Shifting borders: Islamophobia as common ground for building pan-European right-wing unity. Patterns of Prejudice, 48(5). 479-499.
[35] Hafez, F. (2016). Comparing anti-semitism and Islamophobia: The state of the field. Islamophobia Studies Journal, 3(2). 16-34.
[36] Lean, N. (2012). The Islamophobia Industry. Pluto Press: London, UK.
[37] Hale, W.C. (2012). Extremism on the World Wide Web: A research review. Criminal Justice Studies, 25(4). 343-356.
[38] De Koster, W., Houtman, D. (2008). 'Stormfront is like a second home to me': On virtual community formation by right-wing extremists. Information, Communication & Society, 11(8). 1155-1176.
[39] Adams, J., Roscigno, V.J. (2005). White supremacists, oppositional culture and the World Wide Web. Social Forces, 85(2). 759-778.
[40] Marichal, J. (2013). Political Facebook groups: Micro-activism and the digital front stage. First Monday, December.
[41] Kitts, J. (2000). Mobilizing in black boxes: Social networks and participation in social movement organizations. Mobilization: An International Journal, 5(2). 241-257.
[42] Burris, V., Smith, E., Strahm, A. (2000). White supremacist networks on the Internet. Sociological Focus, 33(2). 215-235
[43] Zhou, Y., Reid, E., Qin, J., Chen, H., Lai, G. (2005). U.S. domestic extremist groups on the Web: Link and content analysis. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 20(5). 44-51.
[44] Gerstenfeld, P., Grant, D.R., Chang, C.-P. (2003). Hate online: A content analysis of extremist Internet sites. Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 3(1). 29-44.
[45] Chau, M., Xu, J. (2007). Mining communities and their relationships in blogs: A study of online hate groups. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 65(1). 57-70.
[46] Gephi.
[47] Fruchterman Reingold.,last accessed 2018/04/28.
[48] Fruchterman,T.M.,Reingold,E.M. (1991). Graph drawing by force-directed placement. Software:
Practice and Experience, 21(11). 1129-1164.
[49] Bonacich, P. (1972). Technique for Analyzing Overlapping Memberships. Sociological Methodology, 4. 176-185.
[50] Facebook. How does Facebook suggest groups for me to join?
[51] Sartre, J.P. (1948) Anti-Semite and Jew. Schoken Books: Paris, France.