TTP Investigation: Militia Groups are Actively Spreading Vaccine Disinformation on Facebook
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 17, 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 militia groups on Facebook are playing a key role in spreading misinformation about Covid vaccines. This dangerous content proliferates despite Facebook’s promises to crack down on both militia groups and vaccine misinformation on the platform.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “This dangerous mix of far-right extremist activity and conspiratorial pseudoscience could lead to real-world harm in more ways than one. Despite Facebook’s recent pushback against President Biden’s assertion that Facebook is ‘killing people,’ it doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to dispute the claim with action.”
The investigation found that militia groups—whose Facebook activity has been previously documented by TTP—are now fanning baseless fears about Covid vaccines as a way to cast suspicion on the government and re-energize their following after waves of mass arrests tied to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.
In one example highlighted by TTP, a member of the Facebook group “Southwest Arkansas Militia” posted on July 23 about the “growing chatter of ‘quarantine camps’ for unvaccinated people by 2022” and asked if there was a “plan in place to counteract this.” Facebook affixed a label to the “quarantine camps” post linking to its COVID-19 Information Center but did not identify the statement as false or misleading.
In one particularly egregious case, Facebook gave legitimacy to a militia group administrator spreading false claims by allowing her to use a “Group Expert” badge, meant for to users who serve as “trusted, well-informed members.” The “expert” wrote that “if you know anybody who honestly believes this Delta variant BS they are a lost cause.” She also shared numerous anti-vaccine memes, including one that warned the Biden administration is “coming after” people who don’t obey its call to get vaccinated. At one point she warned bluntly: “The unvaxxed are armed. It’ll be a short fight.”
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “The Group Expert badge is just the latest in an arsenal of tools that Facebook provides bad actors wishing to sow discontent and spread misinformation online. If Facebook continues to insist that self-reporting and AI are sufficient safeguards against dangerous content, this surely won’t be the last new feature that gets weaponized against truth.”
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.