Biden spokesman blasts Facebook for allowing misinformation after election

A campaign official for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE slammed Facebook for allowing the spread of misinformation surrounding last week's election.

Bill Russo, a Biden spokesman, criticized the tech giant in a series of tweets late Monday claiming it is allowing disinformation on its platform that is “shredding the fabric of our democracy.”

“We knew this would happen. We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not,” Russo said. “Our democracy is on the line. We need answers.”

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Russo questioned Facebook’s actions on several pages and posts he suggested the platform took too little action on or was not swift enough in reacting to.

For example, Russo called out the platform for not banning former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s page after Bannon called for the beheading of FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFans attending Super Bowl LVI to be given KN95 masks The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Breaking: Justice Breyer to retire Serena Williams, Fauci among 'Portrait of a Nation' honorees MORE.

Russo also accused Facebook of only removing the video with Bannon’s comments “after a journalist inquired about the video.”

Unlike Facebook, Twitter suspended Bannon’s account, saying it violated the platform's policy on the “glorification of violence.”

In addition to Bannon’s post, Russo hit Facebook for not quickly removing “thousands of calls for violence” on the platform in the days after Election Day.

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Facebook’s actions toward misinformation, Russo said, enabled the “mobilization of conspiracy theorists using ‘Stop the Steal’ groups ballooned to over 300k members, before finally being taken down under pressure."

“After Facebook removed the initial group, multiple new 'stop the steal' groups formed and grew rapidly,” he added.

In response to Russo’s tweets, a Facebook spokesperson defended the company’s actions before and after the election but did not directly address the instances highlighted by Russo.

“In the lead-up to this election, we announced new products and policies to reduce the spread of misinformation and the potential for confusion or civil unrest. We built the largest third-party fact-checking network of any platform and they remain actively focused on claims about the election, including conspiracy theories,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

“We changed our products to ensure fewer people see false information and are made aware of it when they do, and highlighted reliable election information where nearly everyone on Facebook and Instagram saw that Vice President Biden was the projected winner of the U.S. election.”

Last week Facebook took down a group called Stop the Steal that was spreading pro-Trump election misinformation after it had accumulated well over 300,000 members.

Biden was projected as the winner of the election on Saturday, but Trump has not conceded. Instead, Trump and his allies have sought to cast doubt on the results by alleging election fraud without providing any supporting evidence. Before the election, Trump repeatedly claimed mail-in voting led to widespread voter fraud, despite no findings to support those claims.

Public health experts had argued in favor of mail-in voting options given the risks of transmission at polling locations during the coronavirus pandemic. Social media posts from Trump and others that included misinformation about mail-in voting have been labeled by both Facebook and Twitter.

The Biden campaign had called on Facebook ahead of Election Day to strengthen its policies against election-related misinformation. Russo also called out the platform for applying the same label with additional voting information to Trump's and Biden’s posts over the summer.

Trump and many Republicans, however, have also criticized social media giants over their handling of fact-checking and have accused the companies of anti-conservative bias. But despite these accusations, conservative voices are dominant on Facebook, based on publicly available data about post interactions.

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Shortly after the first time Twitter placed a label on one of Trump’s tweets in May, he signed an executive order aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides a legal liability shield for content posted on their platforms by third parties. 

Biden has signaled he would want to take action on Section 230, telling the New York Times editorial board in December it should be immediately revoked, but he has not yet detailed a definitive plan or agenda.

Updated at 3:10 p.m.