Facebook is still struggling to combat election misinformation two years after the deadly Capitol insurrection
Parent company Meta is expected to announce its decision to let former president and 2024 candidate Donald Trump back on Facebook later this month
Following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Facebook vowed to reduce election misinformation and prevent further incitement of violence. But Media Matters’ latest analysis found that two years after the attack, Facebook is still struggling to combat election misinformation, allowing right-leaning pages and users to interact with former President Donald Trump’s misinformation, post “Stop the Steal” content, and share baseless claims of election fraud.
In fact, right-leaning news and politics pages on Facebook earned over 60.5 million interactions on elections-related posts in 2022, some of which featured election misinformation. There are also still dozens of public and private Facebook groups with names alleging that the 2020 election was stolen.
After Meta failed to stop election misinformation before, during, and after the 2020 election, which contributed to the January 6 insurrection, the company suspended Trump and eventually acknowledged that it failed to recognize “a coordinated effort to delegitimize the election.” The company ultimately suspended the former president from posting on its platforms for at least two years, publicly citing his use of Facebook “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” The January 6 committee hearings aired testimony underscoring the fact that Trump and his social media posts influenced some people to riot.
In the coming weeks, Meta will decide whether “the risk to public safety” has “receded” enough to allow Trump back on its platforms. Trump, meanwhile, has taken to his own Twitter-like social media platform, Truth Social, to allege that “Facebook has been doing very poorly” since banning him. Now running for reelection in 2024 and well-aware of how pivotal Facebook was as a fundraising engine for his past campaigns, Trump added, “Hopefully, Facebook will be able to turn it around.”
Meta has also reiterated its commitment to election integrity and to preventing election misinformation across the globe, including in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections. But Media Matters has repeatedly shown that Facebook has continued to fall short of these commitments. For instance, ahead of and during the 2022 midterms, Meta earned revenue from political ads containing claims debunked by its third-party fact-checkers, profited from right-leaning ads with misleading claims during its ad restriction period, and allowed the spread of Rumble videos of Election Day streams hosted by QAnon supporters and other fringe right-wing figures.
Now, Media Matters has found that Meta is still allowing election misinformation to proliferate on the platform.
Trump still has a presence on Facebook two years after he was suspended for inciting violence at the Capitol
Though Trump has been unable to share new posts from his official Facebook page over the last two years, his page remains active and users continue to engage with his old posts. Trump’s 13 posts from the day of the insurrection are still accessible and have nearly 9.5 million total interactions after two years. Other egregious posts, including posts inciting and defending violence against those protesting police brutality during the summer of 2020, also remain active.
Further, Trump’s joint fundraising committee has earned millions of impressions on ads while he has been suspended from the platform. Media Matters has repeatedly reported on these ads, many of which violate Trump’s suspension from the platform. (According to Facebook, groups affiliated with Trump are allowed to run ads that don’t link to Trump’s website, or feature his voice, but many of the ads have broken these rules.) The fundraising committee continued to run ads throughout the midterms, promoting Trump rallies, praising him as “the greatest President of all time,” and pushing polls, such as “Would you vote for President Trump a 3rd Time?” and “Are you ULTRA MAGA?”
Since his suspension, Trump has repeatedly shared election misinformation and amplified dangerous conspiracy theories on Truth Social. Media Matters found that nearly half of Trump's posts on Truth Social in the week after the midterm elections pushed election misinformation or amplified QAnon-promoting accounts. If Meta officially allows Trump back on its platform, it will be giving him a green light to push more election misinformation, dangerous rhetoric, and extremism to millions of users.
Right-leaning politics pages on Facebook earned over 60.5 million interactions on elections-related posts, often featuring election misinformation
Right-leaning news and politics Facebook pages shared 65,500 election-related posts in 2022, earning over 60.5 million total interactions. In fact, right-wing media outlets Fox News, Newsmax, and Breitbart — all of which repeatedly pushed lies about the 2020 election — posted over 3,000 election-related posts in 2022, collectively earning over 12.5 million interactions on these posts.
Among the right-leaning pages, the 10 top-performing posts included claims that the 2020 election was “fixed,” references to Dinesh D’Souza's debunked election conspiracy theory movie 2000 Mules, fearmongering about Democrat policies (including by Trump), and claims that God is America’s “only hope.”
Trump-aligned group that hosted the rally that led to the Capitol insurrection is still posting about “Stop the Steal”
Women for America First is a pro-Trump nonprofit that helped organize the rally that led to the Capitol insurrection. Its leaders 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. In the year that followed, Facebook allowed Women for America First to continue using its Facebook page to promote more “Stop the Steal” events across the country, as well as to promote an international anti-vax blockade.
In 2022, the group continued to use its Facebook page to share posts containing “Stop the Steal” content, with the posts earning nearly 9,000 total interactions.
Some of these posts brazenly called for people who attended “a Stop the Steal protest or rally between Nov 4th - Jan 6th” (between the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection) to send them photos for a “storytelling project” to create a “beautiful coffee table book that documents the historical movement.”
Other posts included the hashtag “#stopthesteal,” defended Trump, and attacked the FBI following its lawful search of Mar-a-Lago for Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. One post said, “How do we know they didn't plant something inside Mar-a-lago to frame him?!?! It wouldn't be the first time…”
Facebook groups that allege the 2020 election was stolen continue to thrive
Media Matters identified 58 groups with names that allege the 2020 election was stolen. 19 of these groups, which Media Matters had previously identified, specifically use variations of “Stop the Steal” or mention a “stolen election” in their name. These 19 groups have also seen overall membership grow from nearly 1,450 members in January 2022 to nearly 1,540 members now. (One of these groups has been archived.)
We identified another 39 public and private Facebook groups that have names alleging that “Trump Won” or that “Biden stole the election,” or other similar variations.