Facebook 'supercharged' the Stop the Steal campaign that led to the Capitol insurrection, US lawmaker says

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Facebook 'supercharged' the Stop the Steal campaign that led to the Capitol insurrection, US lawmaker says
People attend a rally in support of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
  • US Rep. Mike Doyle says Facebook "supercharged" false election claims before the Capitol riots.
  • Doyle referenced a viral Stop the Steal group on Facebook that attracted 365,000 members in 2 days.
  • The comment came as the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google testify Thursday in front of Congress.
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A US Representative slammed Facebook for "supercharging" false claims of voting fraud and stolen elections that turned into real-world violence during the Capitol insurrection.

As Congress members on Thursday grilled the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, Rep. Mike Doyle from Pennsylvania pressured Mark Zuckerberg to "admit" his platform provided a platform for Donald Trump supporters to rally around the "Stop the Steal" campaign and storm the Capitol building. Zuckerberg dodged the question, in line with Facebook executives' insistence their platform played no part in the lead-up to the siege.

"How is it possible for you not to at least admit you played a central role or a leading role in facilitating the recruitment, planning, and execution of the attack on the Capitol," Doyle told Zuckerberg. "Your algorithms make it possible to supercharge these kinds of opinions."

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was the only executive to answer "yes" to questions about whether their platforms bear responsibility for spreading misinformation.

In the days following the 2020 presidential election in November, Facebook became a gathering place for Trump supporters to share and promote unfounded claims that the election was rigged to give President Joe Biden the win. The most popular group, called "Stop the Steal," attracted 365,000 members in less than two days before Facebook removed it because some members were making "worrying calls for violence."

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The Facebook group sparked months of organization and mobilization efforts among pro-Trump extremists across Facebook and other social platforms, culminating in the Capitol insurrection in January. Donald Trump, who has repeated claims the election was stolen, spoke to supporters at a DC rally hours before insurrectionists stormed the Capitol. Many of the nearly 100 people who face federal charges related to the riot were found to use Facebook and social media to plan and execute it.

However, Facebook has largely denied any fault for the spread of misinformation leading to the Capitol siege. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, has said that the insurrection was organized online, but not primarily on Facebook.

"Our enforcement is never perfect, so I'm sure there were still things on Facebook," Sandberg said in January." I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don't have our abilities to stop hate, and don't have our standards, and don't have our transparency."

Yet Facebook did not take extensive action against "Stop the Steal" content that was still spreading despite the group's removal until a few days after the Capitol attack, when Facebook announced it would remove all posts referencing the baseless campaign.

Social platforms took more severe action against Trump: Twitter permanently banned Trump, while Facebook has done it "indefinitely." The status of his bans on Facebook and Instagram is currently under review by Facebook's new Oversight Board.

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Since the Capitol insurrection, experts have told Insider that social platforms aren't "directly implicit" in the attack - but they're far from absolved for their role.

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