TTP Investigation: False Election Audit Claims Surge on Facebook
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 5, 2021
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report showing that Facebook is allowing the spread of false claims about Arizona’s 2020 election “audit” and copycat efforts in other states. Militia groups are turbo-charging these claims on Facebook and using them to rile up supporters and promote the baseless idea that Donald Trump can be “reinstated” as president. The research comes at a time when Department of Homeland Security officials warn that misinformation about overturning the election result could spark a new wave of extremist violence.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “This is yet another situation where Facebook’s refusal to rid its platform of dangerous disinformation could very well result in real world violence. This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that fueled the deadly January 6 insurrection, and it’s completely unacceptable that it still runs rampant on Facebook over six months later.”
TTP identified a number of Facebook users and groups disseminating the audit misinformation. For example, one Facebook user has been posting nearly identical content about the audits, much of it false, in multiple pro-Trump and far-right groups on a near-daily basis. In a May 18 post about the Arizona audit, the user wrote, “If one domino falls, they all fall,” urging people to contact Arizona lawmakers to fight “obstruction” by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
The user also posted on June 20 about the push to inspect ballots in Fulton County, Georgia, making a series of false claims about ballot irregularities. Fact checkers have repeatedly debunked efforts to cast suspicion on Georgia’s election result, but the superspreader’s Facebook post, which appeared in a pro-Trump private group with 10,000 members, carried no fact check label.
TTP found that this type of misinformation about the audits is often fanned by extremist groups. One example is a network of Facebook groups called “The Patriot’s Militia,” also known as TPM, which was created in April 2021 around the time the Arizona audit began. On May 31, the moderator of one group alleged voter fraud in every state, adding, “ARIZONA will fall first. Many states are in turmoil from this.” In another TPM group, “The New Awakening,” a member used audit disinformation to stoke anger toward antifascist and Black Lives Matter protesters, saying “Expectations are high they will do everything possible to stop the counting of legal votes.”
Facebook is not only failing to remove the disinformation but it’s also approving some of the content. TTP identified a Facebook profile frame used by some militia and far-right group members emblazoned with the words “TRUMP WON.” Like all profile frames disseminated on the platform, Facebook must approve the design before it is used.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “On January 6th, hundreds of people who believe the lies they see on Facebook proved that they are willing to use violence as a means to achieve their goals. So long as Facebook continues to allow its platform to be a home for this type of disinformation and conspiratorial anger, that number will only grow.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.