Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied to Congress that his platform had any role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, instead blaming President Trump, who urged his supporters to protest “peacefully.”
But now, DailyMail.com reports, the social media giant admitted in an internal document it didn’t do all that it could have done to stop the flow of information ahead of the event.
The report cited a “leaked internal report” called “Stop the Steal and Patriot Party: The Growth and Mitigation of an Adversarial Harmful Movement.”
Facebook admitted “election delegitimizing movements … grew, spread conspiracy, and helped incite the Capitol insurrection” on its platform.
The memo conflicts with Zuckerberg’s claim to Congress that Facebook was “inhospitable to those who might do harm.”
DailyMail.com said the “damning confession” came in a leaked internal report created by an internal task force that was obtained by Buzzfeed.
Facebook admitted it struggled to distinguish between viable threats to overturn the election and free speech in the run-up to the Jan. 6 event, in which a Trump supporter was shot and killed by an unidentified police officer and several other protesters died of natural causes.
The report said: “Hindsight is 20/20, at the time, it was very difficult to know whether what we were seeing was a coordinated effort to delegitimize the election, or whether it was free expression by users who were afraid and confused and deserved our empathy. But hindsight being 20/20 makes it all the more important to look back to learn what we can about the growth of the election delegitimizing movements that grew, spread conspiracy, and helped incite the Capitol insurrection.”
The report shows FB didn’t know the “Stop the Steal” movement was building for months before Nov 3. On election day it exploded in a viral FB group that “normalized delegitimization and hate in a way that resulted in offline harm and harm to the norms underpinning democracy.”
— Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) April 22, 2021
The report said Facebook blocked Stop the Steal from its platform for “high levels of hate and violence,” but by that point more than 300,000 users were in the conversations and dozens of other sites were created.
Facebook admitted in the report, DailyMail.com said, that it was unprepared to deal with “coordinated authentic harm” on its site, calling it a “new territory” in which “few policies or knowledge existed” prior to the events that day.
Facebook told Buzzfeed that it “didn’t catch everything” but insisted the internal report’s findings aren’t “definitive.”
The SFist blog noted Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview with Reuters that the Jan. 6 riot was “largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”
The blog said Facebook “public relations flacks have obviously been in a terrible spot lately, between this and the 530 million-user data breach that came to light earlier this month.”
“But you gotta hand it to their tactic on this one, which is to undermine the credibility of their own internal report.”
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