Technology

Facebook cracks down on pages linked to Bannon

Facebook removed a network of pages linked to former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon that were spreading misinformation about voter fraud. 

The company removed seven pages which collectively had more than 2.45 million followers, according to activist organization Avaaz, which notified Facebook of the network of Bannon-linked pages on Friday as part of the group's investigation into election disinformation. 

Asked about removing the network, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company "removed several clusters of activity for using inauthentic behavior tactics to artificially boost how many people saw their content."

The Washington Post was first to report on the update on the removal of the network on Monday. 

The pages sought to "delegitimize the election with claims of 'voter fraud' and 'Stop the steal,' " Avaaz said in the message to Facebook last week. 

The removed pages were taken down as part of Facebook's enforcement against spam-like and abusive behavior.

The pages used tactics to make their content appear more popular, according to Facebook.

The "stop the steal" message has become a rallying cry of President Trump's supporters and echoes the message the president himself has been pushing since Election Day, casting doubt on the results. 

Facebook last week said it had removed a group called "Stop the Steal" that had accumulated more than 300,000 members before it was taken down. 

Facebook has not removed Bannon's own page, but the company did reportedly take away Bannon's ability to post new content on his page. 

Twitter went one step further than Facebook last week, suspending Bannon's account over violating the platform's policy on the "glorification of violence."

The account was suspended after Bannon called FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci's heads to be on pikes.

The video in which Bannon made the comments was removed from Facebook. 

Avaaz campaign director Fadi Quran questioned Facebook's hesitation to take action on the network of misinformation pages the group found were linked to Bannon. 

"In 2016, Steve Bannon was buoyed by the Facebook algorithm and helped define the political narrative for millions of Americans. Over the last few months, pages and groups connected to him pushed 'voter fraud' and other misinformation content to millions. Now, he is seeking to further divide America and spread chaos in this post-Election Day landscape, again using Facebook," Quran said in a statement. "Facebook has finally acted after Avaaz's pressure, but the question is: Why did the company not act earlier?"

Bill Russo, a spokesman for President-elect Joe Biden's campaign, similarly called out Facebook late Monday night over the platform's handling of misinformation. He specifically slammed the platform for keeping Bannon's page live on Facebook. 

Since Biden was projected the winner of the election on Saturday, Trump has not conceded.

Instead, Trump and his allies have sought to cast doubt on the results of the election by alleging fraud without providing any evidence. Trump has continued to voice his claims that mail-in voting led to widespread voter fraud, despite no findings to support his claims.

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