January 20, 2022

Not stopping ‘Stop the Steal:’ Facebook Papers paint damning picture of company’s role in insurrection

2 min read

Just days after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6th, Facebook’s Chief Operational Officer Sheryl Sandberg downplayed her company’s role in what had happened.

“We know this was organized online. We know that,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “We… took down QAnon, Proud Boys, Stop the Steal, anything that was talking about possible violence last week. Our enforcement’s never perfect so I’m sure there were still things on Facebook. 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.”

But internal Facebook (FB) documents reviewed by CNN suggest otherwise. The documents, including an internal post-mortem and one document showing in real time countermeasures Facebook employees were belatedly implementing, paint a picture of a company that was in fact fundamentally unprepared for how the Stop the Steal movement used its platform to organize, and that only truly swung into action after the movement, which played a pivotal role in the insurrection, had turned violent.

Asked by CNN about Sandberg’s quote and whether she stood by it, a Facebook spokesperson pointed to the greater context around Sandberg’s quote. She had been noting that Jan. 6 organization happened largely online, including but not limited to on Facebook’s platforms, the spokesperson said.The documents were provided by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen as evidence to support disclosures she made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were obtained by a consortium of 17 US news organizations, including CNN.

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