Story at a glance
- About three dozen fires are currently active and more than 863,000 acres have been burned in Oregon.
- Several false reports alleging extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon have made the rounds on social media.
- Facebook says it is taking down these posts but several remain on Twitter.
FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies, from Douglas to Jackson County, have investigated several reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon and said they were untrue.
"Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources," the FBI said in a statement.
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said on Twitter the social media platform would remove false claims based on confirmation from law enforcement.
"This is consistent with our past efforts to remove content that could lead to imminent harm given the possible risk to human life as the fires rage on," Stone said.
Starting on Thursday, when some of Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers assessed these claims to be false (based partly on what local PDs were reporting), we began applying strong warning labels and dramatically reducing their distribution.— Andy Stone (@andymstone) September 12, 2020
But several posts on Twitter making similarly false claims remain up. One viral tweet that came from Paul J. Romero, Jr., a veteran who ran for Senate in Oregon, according to his campaign website, but lost the Republican primary.
Oregon is on fire! Pallet Company in Oregon City confirmed Antifa arsonist on camera. Douglas County Sheriff has 6 ANTIFA arsonists in custody. Many fires in Oregon. Obviously there are more to track down and arrest. Governor Kate Brown built this.— Paul J. Romero, Jr. for OREGON (@PJR4Senate) September 9, 2020
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement denying Romero’s claims the next day.
“Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON. THIS IS NOT TRUE!” the department said in a statement.
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