- Facebook failed to stop far-right groups from planning to storm the Capitol, an internal report said.
- It showed that insurrection plans continued even after the “Stop the Steal” group was banned.
- “Hindsight is 20/20, at the time,” the report said, adding the company will “do better next time.”
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Facebook failed to prevent far-right groups from planning the US Capitol riots on its platform, according to an internal report.
In January, pro-Donald Trump extremists broke into the House and Senate chambers to disrupt the confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The riots led to five deaths and dozens of arrests.
An internal report seen by BuzzFeed News showed that numerous groups who gathered on Facebook continued to plan the insurrection even after the far-right “Stop the Steal” group was banned.
Stop the Steal became the most popular Facebook group, accumulating more than 365,000 members in less than two days before the social media site removed it for making “worrying calls for violence.”
The report, which was shared with Facebook employees in March, said Facebook users in the Stop the Steal group and other pro-Trump groups contributed to the attack on the Capitol.
According to the report, Facebook’s attempt to dig out fake accounts and “inauthentic behavior” hindered the company from taking action against real people on the platform who were directly involved in the planning of the riots.
“Hindsight is 20/20, at the time,” the report said, per Buzzfeed. “It was very difficult to know whether what we were seeing was a coordinated effort to delegitimize the election, or whether it was free expression by users who were afraid and confused and deserved our empathy.”
Facebook was only able to take down groups and pages when they exceeded a violation threshold. This was because the company was looking at each case individually, according to the report.
“After the Capitol Insurrection and a wave of Storm the Capitol events across the country, we realized that the individual delegitimizing Groups, Pages and slogans did constitute a cohesive movement,” the report said.
Delegitimization of elections was a “new territory” and “few policies or knowledge existed” prior to election night, Facebook’s report said.
“We learned a lot from these cases,” the report added. “We’re building tools and protocols and having policy discussions to help us do better next time.”
A Facebook spokesperson told Insider in a statement that the company tried to reduce the amount of claims of a fraudulent election by suspending Trump’s account, removing the Stop the Steal group, and labeling candidates’ post with vote-counting information.
“As we’ve said previously, we still saw problematic content on our platform during this period and we know that we didn’t catch everything,” the spokesperson said. The report is not a “definitive post-mortem report,” they added.
A week after the riots, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said the event wasn’t primarily organized on the platform but admitted the company’s moderation “is never perfect.”
In March, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the role tech its site plays in the spread of misinformation and extremism online.
Zuckerberg said the company worked with law enforcement before January 6 to identify and address threats, and remove violent posts about the attacks.
“We didn’t catch everything, but we made our services inhospitable to those who might do harm,” he added.