A company memo tells a different story than Mark Zuckerberg told Congress, as Facebook knew that “super-inviters” found ways to promote false election nonsense after the main "Stop the Steal" group was deplatformed.
Facebook founder and Star Trek: The Next Generation android lieutenant Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress last month he thought Facebook did a great job handling the post-election era, when a defeated Trump was megaphoning baseless election fraud stories. He said that Facebook had “strengthened our enforcement against militias, conspiracy networks, and other groups to help prevent them from using our platform to organize violence or civil unrest in the period after the election.” (Yeah, that worked!) Zuckerberg’s human counterpart Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview with Reuters that the insurrection was “largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”
Exclusive: An internal report reveals how Facebook failed to prevent the "Stop the Steal" movement from using the platform to "spread conspiracy, and help incite the Capitol insurrection.” This new evidence contradicts public statements from Zuck/Sandberg: https://t.co/VEAI8BoS8G— Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) April 22, 2021
That statement seems laughable in light of a Facebook internal memo just obtained by Buzzfeed. Their report on that memo, which comes with a really magnificent header graphic, notes that even though the company shut down a very large “Stop the Steal” Facebook group immediately after the November election, the message itself was not inhibited because a small number of “super-inviters" merely invited wingnut users into similar, smaller offshoot group. Buzzfeed’s previous reporting in January showed at least 66 Stop the Steal groups were still operating even after the insurrection, with more than 14,000 members among them.
Facebook’s report notes the original Stop the Steal group was “flagged for escalation because it contained high levels of hate and violence and incitement (VNI) in the comments.” (Yes, Facebook even has a three-letter acronym for it.) “It wasn’t until later that it became clear just how much of a focal point the catchphrase would be, and they would serve as a rallying point around which a movement of violent election delegitimization could coalesce,” Facebook admitted.
In response to these findings, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy executive director Jean Donovan told Buzzfeed, “Everybody knew that Stop the Steal or something like it was on its way,” and pointed out that such messaging "went on for months prior to Jan. 6. It’s not like it was hiding behind the kind of tricks that Russia were using in 2016.”
Facebook public relations flacks have obviously been in a terrible spot lately, between this and the 530 million-user data breach that came to light earlier this month. But you gotta hand it to their tactic on this one, which is to undermine the credibility of their own internal report.
“This is not a definitive report,” a Facebook spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “It’s a product of one of many teams who are continuing to study what happened so we can continue improving our content moderation.”
Related: Facebook Lifts Ban on Political Ads, Because Everything's Good Now? [SFist]
Image: WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester is seen inside the US Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building during demonstrations in the nation's capital. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)