Tens of thousands of Facebook groups were found to brew calls for violence ahead of the elections if Donald Trump failed to recapture the White House, an investigation pushed by Reuters news agency found.
One such group that Facebook shut Thursday was calling to ‘Stop the steal’ and asked users to ready their weapon should President Trump loses the 2020 Election.
Facebook cited “worrying calls for violence from some members,” and efforts to delegitimize the election process as reasons for removing it from the platform.
But it turned out, the group was not the only one operation with potentially violent calls.
An investigation of U.S.-based Facebook Groups between September and October by intel agency CounterAction found thousands of political groups, with millions of members, were exposed to such violent rhetoric.
In over a two-month period, twenty variations of violent phrases like ‘we need a civil war,’ and ‘lock the load’ among others, in reference to the US elections, were found in 41k instances in these political Facebook groups, Reuters reports.
Other dangerously violent phrases like ‘shoot them’ and ‘killed them’ appeared nearly 7.3k times and over 1k times respectively. One comment read ‘time to start shooting, folks,’ and the phrase ‘hang him’ appeared over 8k times, the CounterAction investigation found.
The alarming investigation comes in a year that has seen no dearth of civil unrest.
For years journalists, civil rights groups, governments, and even non-government organizations blame these Facebook groups as epicenters of violence in some real-life scenarios.
A BuzzFeed News report said the Facebook metric that gauges the ‘violence and incitement’ of content on the platform registered an uptick of 45% in the weeks leading to and following the US Elections 2020.
A Facebook employee in a post to a group of Facebook’s internal message board alerted the colleagues of the rising metric of violent posts.
“The ‘probable violence and incitement’ metric for exploring has been slowly rising over the last few days,” the post’s author wrote, BuzzFeed News reports. “The risky hashtags seem conspiracy-theory-esque.”
Since 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promoted Facebook groups aggressively under a strategic move to incite more ‘meaningful connections.’
This means people see more of the Groups recommendation on their news feed and search engine results. But civil rights organization has warned these groups could potentially incite violence and misinformation Reuters reported.
Facebook says they ‘remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement’ when they perceive there’s a genuine risk of physical harm or risk to public safety in their ‘Violence and incitement‘ statement.
The company says they also try to consider language and context to determine a threat call from being credible or a casual statement.
However, the social media giant did not clarify to the Reuters news agency if the examples of violent content forwarded fell under their ‘violence and incitement’ policy of removal.