Zuckerberg was defiant about Facebook’s role in the uprising during Thursday’s hearing titled “Nation Disinformation: The Role of Social Media in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation”. He told Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle, the subcommittee cochair, who asked, “How is it possible that you are not at least admitting that Facebook is central to the recruiting, planning, and execution of the Capitol attack? “- that the blame lay primarily elsewhere.”
“I think the responsibility here rests with the people who took action to break the law and lead the insurrection,” he said. “Second, the people who disseminated this content – including the President but others too – with repeated rhetoric over time, saying that the elections were rigged and encouraging people to organize. I think these people also have the main responsibility. ”
When asked by Cochair Jan Schakowsky from Illinois whether Facebook takes money to “place advertisements to promote disinformation”, Zuckerberg replied: “We do not allow any misinformation in our advertisements. And any ad that has been factually verified and is inaccurate will not be allowed to run as an ad. “
This was misleading at best: Facebook actually runs ads with misinformation when it’s political – because the company has repeatedly insisted that political ads aren’t checked. Zuckerberg has argued that “political speech is important” and the company therefore does not want to interfere – which gives politicians and parliamentary groups the open license to be freely on Facebook.
Eventually, the Democrats who tried to keep Zuckerberg’s feet on the fire to provide a platform that would benefit from “engagement” algorithms that radicalize thousands of users desperate ever to get a straight answer from the Facebook CEO. After New Jersey committee chairman Frank Pallone received a workaround on his question of whether or not Zuckerberg decided to reduce a business plan to combat extremist misinformation, he narrowly closed his discourse and turned in frustration to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
This defiant approach to the problem is consistent with the fact that the company did not shut down some of the far-right factions that supported the insurgency, as outlined in the Tech Transparency Project report, despite long promises to bring the problem under control.
As of March 18, the TTP was able to identify 201 militia sites and 13 militia groups on Facebook. About 70% of them had the word “militia” in their name.
Furthermore, not only do militia pages exist on Facebook, but TTP also found that the platform is actually pushing people towards them: 34 of the militia pages identified by TTP (17%) were actually generated automatically by Facebook. Most of them had the word “militia” in their names.
The reason the term continues to thrive on Facebook was made clear in a company spokesman’s response on BuzzFeed to TTP’s report: “We will verify the accuracy of the information and referenced content as soon as we have access to this report We have banned over 890 militarized social movements and removed more than 3,400 pages, 19,500 groups, 120 events, 25,300 Facebook profiles and 7,500 Instagram accounts representing them. However, the simple use of the word “militia” does not go against ours Guidelines. “
“After nearly a year of promises to curb the organization of militia groups on the platform – a threat that culminated in an attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 – Facebook has shown that, despite their claims, they are unable to defeat the platform their platform to address emerging threats to Congress and the public, “TTP Director Katie Paul told BuzzFeed News.
Of the 201 militia groups identified by the TTP, more than 20 were created following Facebook’s actions last August. Some were formed in December 2020 or later, like the Texan Militia, which launched their side even though the attack on the Capitol began on January 6th. Its creator and administrator claimed that “modern technology has enabled radicals to undermine the process by which we elect our representatives. “
“We have to be ready to defend and prevent our rights [the] Radicals are taking over our great nation, upholding the constitution and preserving our way of life, ”he added.
BuzzFeed also noted that Facebook’s algorithms continue to push users into far-right rabbit holes. When visiting the East Kentucky Malitia page (a deliberate misspelling to avoid detection), Facebook referred their reporter to the Fairfax County Militia and KY Mountain Rangers pages. There the algorithms directed the reporter to the Texas Freedom Force.
The Texas Freedom Force was identified as a “militia extremist group” by the FBI in an affidavit filed in January, while one of its members, Guy Reffitt, was charged with multiple crimes for participating in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. As you may recall, Reffitt notoriously warned his adult children that he would kill them for “treason” if they turned him over to federal authorities after the uprising.