TTP Investigation: Militia Content Still Thriving on Facebook a Year After Capitol Riot
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 4, 2022
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 revealing that Facebook is continuing to allow far-right militant groups to organize on its platform, a year after the Capitol riot that was largely fueled on Facebook. Even more alarming, Facebook’s algorithms and advertising tools are often promoting extremist content to users.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “One would imagine that an event like the Capitol insurrection would have forced Facebook to clean up its militia mess, but, as per usual, the company puts profits over everything. The prevalence of these groups is startlingly similar to what we found a year ago. Facebook’s failure to stem the growth of these groups on its platform–especially considering it very publicly promised to do so–is completely unacceptable.”
Prominent in TTP’s newest findings are posts and groups related to the anti-government Three Percenters, whose followers played a visible role in the Capitol riot. Officials have linked at least seven Capitol riot defendants to the Three Percenters.
TTP identified a page for a person under the name “William Teer” that links directly to the website for the Texas Three Percenters, a state chapter of the militia movement. The page administrator posted a video on Jan. 4, 2021, promoting the Jan. 6 Capitol rally. The page was active in promoting Three Percenter activities throughout the year. In Oct. 2021, the page sought to raise funds for a trip to “run patrols at the border.” In November, the page posted links to a birthday fundraiser for Texas Three Percenters.
Facebook’s tools actively promote Three Percenter content to users. In two cases identified by TTP in April 2021, Facebook allowed profile frames that explicitly promoted the Three Percenter militia. These profile frames must be approved by Facebook, meaning the company actually signed off on them despite the militia association. Facebook’s “suggested friends” feature also recommended accounts that prominently featured the Three Percenters’ “III%” iconography in their profile photo.
Facebook’s promotion of militia content extends far beyond the Three Percenters, and in some cases, the company is directly profiting from this promotion. In June 2021, Facebook ran ads for the page “1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry,” a militia group. The ad sought to recruit new members, stating, “1st Mov is looking for patriot’s to join our rank’s.” Facebook identified the ad’s potential reach as between 500,000 and one million users. In Dec. 2021, the page for “Sons of Liberty – Midwest,” ran an ad promoting its militia group. The ad links to the group’s website, which describes its mission as “resistance to tyranny” and lays out its leadership structure.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “There’s plenty to be angry about in these findings. Facebook continues to not only allow but promote and profit from the exact same type of content that led to one of the greatest threats to U.S. democracy in recent memory. As individuals continue to be held accountable for their actions on that day, we should not take our eye off the company that brought – and continues to bring – many of them together.”
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.