In June 2017, the phrase “Harmful Extremist Content” became notable due to the government of Germany passing a law that’d fine social media companies up to $57 million for failing to remove harmful and extremist content. Four years later, in March 2021, social media executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey were called to testify in front of the U.S. Congress regarding harmful extremist content being shared on their platforms. Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional Hearings, in particular, led to multiple memes.
However, on July 1st, 2021, the term was most notably used after all Facebook users received a pop-up message telling them, “All of us may have been exposed to harmful extremist content recently,” in regards to the growing concerns of Fake News on the website, stemming from Facebook’s 2016 Fake News Controversy as well as the 2021 uptick in QAnon content.
It surprised many users, who saw the announcement as both cringeworthy and unnecessary. For instance, on July 1st, the Facebook page of the Libertarian Party of Texas posted a screenshot of the pop-up alert, receiving roughly 2,400 reactions and 2,100 shares for it over the course of six months (shown below, left). Other users received personalized alerts, like Instagram‘s pincusrob, who posted an example of his personalized pop-up on July 1st, earning over 700 likes (shown below, right).