Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Amid riot, Facebook faced its own insurrecti­on


As supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, battling police and forcing lawmakers into hiding, an insurrecti­on of a different kind was taking place at the world’s largest social media company.

Thousands of miles away, in California, Facebook engineers were racing to tweak internal controls to slow the spread of misinforma­tion and inciteful content. Emergency actions — some of which were rolled back after the 2020 election — included banning Trump, freezing comments in groups with a record for hate speech, filtering out the “Stop the Steal” rallying cry and empowering content moderators to act more assertivel­y by labeling the U.S. a “Temporary High Risk Location” for political violence.

At the same time, frustratio­n inside Facebook erupted over what some saw as the company’s halting and often reversed response to rising extremism in the U.S.

“Haven’t we had enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without enabling violence?” one employee wrote on an internal message board at the height of the Jan. 6 turmoil. “We’ve been fueling this fire for a long time and we shouldn’t be surprised it’s now out of control.”

It’s a question that still hangs over the company today, as Congress and regulators investigat­e Facebook’s part in the Jan. 6 riots.

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