It took Facebook less than two days to shut down the original “Stop the Steal” group but two months for it to realize that the group and its offspring had spawned a “harmful movement” that thrived on the platform and would ultimately lead to violence.
The news comes from a Facebook internal report analyzing the company’s response to the events leading up to and culminating in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Reporters at BuzzFeed News obtained the report, titled “Stop the Steal and Patriot Party: The Growth and Mitigation of an Adversarial Harmful Movement” and published the document today after Facebook reportedly began restricting employees’ access to it.
The social media company was apparently unprepared for the idea that people would use their own accounts to spread misinformation and calls for violence and other antidemocratic behavior. Among the conclusions, Facebook acknowledged that while it had prepared tools to combat “inauthentic behavior,” which might include provocations from a fake account run by Russian intelligence operatives, for example, the company was woefully unprepared to confront “coordinated authentic harm.” (Emphasis Facebook’s.)