Democratic Senators are demanding answers from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg about why Facebook didn't do more to curb users from spreading the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
“We write to express concern regarding Meta’s role in responding to the rise of online election related misinformation and disinformation in the United States and the accompanying rise in divisive, hateful, and violent online activity that undermines confidence in the integrity of our elections,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and 12 other Senate Democrats say in a letter sent to Zuckerberg on Tuesday.
“The false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen fueled a violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th,” the lawmakers continued. “The misinformation and disinformation that led to insurrection as well as planning for the insurrection took place largely on online platforms, including Facebook.:
Klobuchar and the others are specifically questioning Zuckerberg about reports that Facebook cut back on efforts to stymie the spread of election-related lies between Election Day and January 6, when supporters of former President Donald Trump rioted at the Capitol.
“Recent reports ... indicate that the company prematurely terminated misinformation and disinformation safeguards that were put in place in advance of the 2020 election,” the lawmakers write, referring to information provided by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen.
Haugen testified to lawmakers that Facebook changed some of its settings before Election Day in order to prevent the spread of untrue claims, but then reverted to the original settings after the election ended.
That shift back to the original settings “allowed misinformation, disinformation, and violent rhetoric to return to the platform immediately following Election Day and in the lead-up to the January 6th insurrection,” the lawmakers write.
Klobuchar and the others acknowledge in their letter that Facebook banned the group “Stop the Steal” -- one of the more better known groups falsely claiming the election was stolen -- but say that other groups promoting the same claim were able to get around Facebook's controls.
The lawmakers are asking Zuckerberg to answer a host of questions, including why Facebook disabled controls aimed at preventing the spread of lies about election results, and what steps the company is taking now to prevent the spread of claims that “undermine election integrity and serve to intimidate voters and election workers.”