Facebook missed several opportunities to crack down on the “Stop the Steal” movement that fueled the January 6, insurrection at the U.S Capitol, according to an internal report obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The report documents how Facebook failed to recognize the threat posed by the movement despite numerous warning signs. It also details how Facebook in some cases was unable to enforce its own rules, and that “members of supposedly banned groups remained on Facebook and were able to link up with Stop the Steal and Patriot Party supporters to help undermine the election.”
Among its most significant findings is that Facebook failed to realize until after the January 6, insurrection that the many disparate “Stop the Steal” groups and pages were actually a “cohesive movement.” This resulted in Facebook banning individual pages and groups, while allowing others to remain up. Notably, Facebook banned all mentions of “Stop the Steal” several days after the insurrection. “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 states.
The report also suggests that Facebook’s existing policies may not go far enough. It notes how Facebook has focused on preventing coordinated inauthentic behavior — that is, actions organized by fake accounts or profiles gaming its platform — but it wasn’t prepared for coordinated harmful behavior from legitimate accounts. “What do we do when a movement is authentic, coordinated through grassroots or authentic means, but is inherently harmful and violates the spirit of our policy?” the report asks.
Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company told BuzzFeed that it was “not a definitive report” and the company is “continuing to study what happened so we can continue improving our content moderation.”
Questions around Facebook’s role in enabling the events of January 6 have taken on new significance as lawmakers consider how to regulate social media platforms. At the same time, the Oversight Board considers whether Donald Trump’s suspension should be lifted — a decision some advocates have argued should be delayed until it considers Facebook’s role in the insurrection.