In 2021, Facebook was warned about Women for America First – a conservative action group that used the social media platform to organize and promote the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Yet Facebook did nothing to prevent Women for America First from spreading more conspiracy theories and misinformation, and now the group is using the platform to advertise the “Freedom Convoy,” an international anti-vaccine mandate protest.
Women for America First is a pro-Trump nonprofit run by right-wing zealot Amy Kremer and her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer. In January 2021, the group filed for a permit under both their names to host a rally in Washington, D.C. that led to the Capitol insurrection. Women for America First and its leaders also circulated several posts on Facebook and Instagram encouraging people to travel to and participate in the event in the days leading up to January 6. The group attempted to distance itself from the violence in the aftermath, but it has drawn scrutiny for its involvement from researchers and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who questioned the group’s status as a tax-exempt nonprofit because of its role in organizing January 6.
Now, Women for America First has once again used its platform on Facebook to promote a right-wing protest besieging a capital city.
For weeks, Ottawa has been overrun by truckers protesting Canada’s various vaccine mandates. The group – which at its peak reached an estimated 8,000 participants, many of whom were not actually Canadian truckers – has terrorized the city and blockaded at least two crossings to the U.S., costing an estimated $300 million a day in economic damages and halting production at auto plants on both sides of the border.
On February 14, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, which would allow banks to freeze the personal accounts of anyone linked to the protests without a court order. The next day, Alberta police recovered a cache of weapons from the Freedom Convoy at a border crossing and arrested 11 people, four of whom have now been charged with conspiring to kill Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.
Through it all, Women for America First has been one of the anti-vaccine mandate protest’s biggest promoters on Facebook.
Since January 29, Women for America First has used Facebook to promote the convoy and champion truckers “getting ready to roll in the US.” These posts have garnered over half a million combined interactions, including two of the top 10 Facebook posts about the trucker convoy from U.S. political news pages since January 1, peaking at No. 1 the weekend of February 12 and No. 3 overall.
Notably, a video posted by Women for America First shows a group of Alaskan truckers supporting the Freedom Convoy in Canada has garnered over 3.1 million views and thousands of comments backing the group. Since the start of the anti-vaccine mandate protest, this was the second most popular post regarding the “trucker convoy” on Facebook.
For over a year, Facebook has been aware of Women for America First’s use of its platform to push conspiracy theories and to suggest that the Capitol riot was a false-flag operation by federal agents. In that time, the company has seemingly done nothing to minimize the group’s ability to spread misinformation. In fact, Women for America First is thriving on Facebook, where the group has nearly 160,000 followers, running ads as recently as January promoting a documentary on the Capitol insurrection pushing the false-flag conspiracy theory.
Now, Facebook has been warned that its platform is being used nefariously by convoy supporters from outside Canada -- including far-right conspiracy theorists -- to amplify disinformation campaigns around the new protests.
“It’s really anybody who’s been a part of these movements who’ve been waiting for an excuse to do something — QAnon, anti-vaccine, sovereign citizens,” noted extremism researcher Sara Aniano, speaking to NBC News. “This feels like the culmination of everything that’s happened since Jan. 6th.”
Unfortunately, Facebook clearly did not learn from January 6, as the company is still allowing groups involved in the insurrection, like Women for America First, to amplify and promote more dangerous and potentially violent protests from its platform.