Facebook’s ‘stop the steal’ ban misses 90 groups promoting election misinformation: analysis
Ninety groups on Facebook promoting debunked claims about election fraud remained on the platform as of Wednesday, after the social media giant said it would remove content containing the phrase “stop the steal,” according to an analysis released Thursday by nonprofit advocacy group Avaaz.
Facebook said Monday it would take content down containing the phrase “Stop the Steal” under its Coordinating Harm policy after the deadly riot at the Capitol last week. The phrase had been used to promote debunked claims about widespread election fraud, which were boosted by President Trump and other Republican lawmakers ahead of the riot.
Avaaz said the 90 groups remaining on the social media platform after Facebook’s ban had 166,000 total members. The groups did not contain “stop the steal” in their names, but similarly “aggressively promoted debunked claims of voter fraud and election rigging.”
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment in response to the Avaaz analysis, but the company indicated earlier this week it may take further action against election misinformation content.
In the post announcing the decision to remove content containing the phrase “stop the steal,” Facebook said “it may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts.”
Fifty of the 90 groups are public and received 200,572 total interactions in the last week alone, according to Avaaz’s analysis.
At least seven of the groups remaining on the platform originally had names including “stop the steal,” but changed them after Nov. 5 when Facebook started taking some action against the phrase. The platform removed a group named “Stop the Steal” in November after it gathered more than 300,000 members.
One of the remaining groups is titled “OWN YOUR VOTE,” and is run by Steve Bannon’s page. A network of pages linked to Bannon was removed by Facebook in November after being notified by Avaaz, but the “OWN YOUR VOTE” group remains, according to the analysis.
The remaining 83 groups identified by Avaaz did not contain “stop the steal” in their names but had names such as “STOP THE FRAUD,” “stop the rigged election,” and “The great 2020 election theft.”
Some of the content promoted in the groups includes further calls to mobilize, according to Avaaz.
Avaaz campaign director Fadi Quran said the analysis shows that Facebook is not doing enough to combat the content that last week was shown could lead to real-world violence.
“Instead of belated piecemeal steps, [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg must take his platform’s failures seriously and move to downrank serial misinformers, remove actors and content that pose an imminent threat to the safety of Americans, and retroactively inform all users when they’ve been exposed to misinformation,” Quran said in a statement. “Without these steps, tragic events like the insurrection we saw in DC could become a mainstay of President-elect Biden’s first term.”
Mainstream social media platforms have widely taken action to crack down on disinformation and conspiracy theories after the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
Twitter, for example, announced Monday it banned over 70,000 accounts that shared content surrounding the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The platforms have also taken action to suspend Trump’s own personal account, Facebook indefinitely, at least until the transfer of power, and Twitter permanently.