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Facebook failed to stop movements that tried to undermine the election, internal probe reportedly finds

An internal task force found the social network didn't take appropriate action against the Stop the Steal movement, reports BuzzFeed News.

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"I voted" stickers in Arlington, Virginia, in 2020
Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

An internal Facebook task force reportedly found that the social network failed to stop a "highly influential movement" from using its platform to delegitimize the US presidential election and incite violence ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. The probe focused on how people connected to two movements -- Stop the Steal and the Patriot Party -- managed to spread misinformation on Facebook and outmaneuver the company's moderation efforts, according to BuzzFeed News, which obtained a copy of the internal Facebook report. 

"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," reads the report, according to BuzzFeed News. 

The task force reportedly identified ways for Facebook to improve its detection systems but also raised questions about how the social network should handle authentic movements that are "inherently harmful" and violate the "spirit" of its policies.

Facebook did take several steps in an attempt to stop the spread of election misinformation, including shutting down the public Stop the Steal group and removing content that included the phrase "stop the steal." Following the riot at the Capitol in January, Facebook also made the decision to indefinitely ban former President Donald Trump from the social network. That decision is being reviewed by Facebook's content oversight board

In an emailed statement on Thursday, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed the internal report but added that the company took a number of steps to limit content that sought to delegitimize the election, including labeling candidates' posts with vote count information and stepping up enforcement against militias and conspiracy networks like QAnon.

"As we've said previously, we still saw problematic content on our platform during this period and we know that we didn't catch everything," said the Facebook spokesperson. "This is not a definitive post-mortem report. It's a product of one of many teams who are continuing  to study what happened so we can continue improving our content moderation."

The internal report, titled "Stop the Steal and Patriot Party: The Growth and Mitigation of an Adversarial Harmful Movement," was posted on Facebook's employee communication platform last month, according to BuzzFeed News.