A new report found that during the 2020 election and the weeks leading up to the deadly riots on the US Capitol in January, Facebook enabled groups — many of which were linked to QAnon, boogaloo, and militia movements — to glorify abuse.
Avaaz, a nonprofit advocacy organization that claims to defend democracies from disinformation, found 267 pages and groups on Facebook that it claims shared violence-glorifying content to a collective following of 32 million users in the run-up to the 2020 election.
According to the survey, more than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names that matched many domestic terrorist movements. The first, boogaloo, encourages a second civil war in the United States and the disintegration of democratic society. The second is the QAnon conspiracy, which argues that Donald Trump is fighting a covert war against the “deep state” and a powerful sect of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who control Hollywood, big business, the media, and the government. The rest are anti-government militias of different kinds. Since 2020, all of them have been largely barred from Facebook.
Despite what Avaaz described as “simple breaches” of Facebook’s rules, 119 of these pages and groups were still active on the site as of March 18, with just under 27 million followers.
Facebook admitted that its policy implementation is “far from flawless,” but claimed that the study distorts its efforts to combat violent extremism and misinformation.
In a statement, the company claimed that it has done more than any other internet company to stop the spread of malicious content, citing its bans of “nearly 900 militarized social movements” and the removal of tens of thousands of QAnon sites, communities, and accounts as examples. It went on to say that it is constantly strengthening its efforts to combat misinformation.
Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai, the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet, are scheduled to testify before Congress on Thursday about extremism and disinformation on their networks.
In the last year, Facebook has tightened its rules against crime, hatred, and misinformation. It barred QAnon groups from its website in October. Previously, it would only expel them if they openly embraced aggression. With varying degrees of effectiveness, it has also outlawed militant and paramilitary parties, as well as boogaloo groups.
Although Facebook banned “Stop the Steal” groups, Avaaz discovered that such groups and the #stopthesteal hashtag remained active on the site after the purge, as did The Associated Press.
According to Avaaz, Facebook’s shortcomings “helped sweep America down the road from election to insurgency.”
According to the study, the social media platform offered a “fertile ground” for disinformation and toxicity, contributing to the radicalization of millions of Americans and helping to build the conditions for the Capitol’s storming.
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