A nonprofit advocacy group with close ties to President Joe Biden on Wednesday joined calls for Facebook to review whether its actions contributed to the spread of unfounded election fraud claims leading up to the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol.
Building Back Together, an outside coalition formed by top Biden allies and campaign advisers, urged Facebook in a letter reviewed by POLITICO to commit to an internal probe of the matter, something the company’s oversight board recommended last month.
Requirements vs. suggestions: The panel, which recently upheld Facebook’s decision to suspend former President Donald Trump, also called on the company to carry out “a comprehensive review of Facebook’s potential contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and the exacerbated tensions that culminated in the violence in the United States on January 6.”
While the ruling on Trump’s suspension is binding, the board’s recommendations for changes to Facebook’s policies and for follow-up actions, such as the review, are not. Facebook is required to respond to the suggestions by Friday, though, and Biden’s allies are pressuring the tech giant to make good on the guidance ahead of the deadline.
Building Back Together senior adviser for voting rights Bob Bauer, who advised Biden’s presidential campaign and served in the Obama White House, called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to make “an unequivocal commitment to the complete and public review suggested by the Oversight Board.”
Failing to do so, Bauer wrote, would undermine the credibility of the board, a group of 20 outside experts that Facebook tapped to make the final call on some of the company’s thorniest content moderation decisions.
“Unless Facebook engages in the transparent evaluation and review that the Oversight Board demands, it will have discredited the board’s very reason for being within 30 days of its only noteworthy action,” Bauer wrote.
A Facebook spokesperson said Tuesday that the company will respond to the oversight board’s call for a review of its handling of election fraud claims as part of its formal reply to the panel’s recommendations.
Biden allies putting a spotlight on social media: The missive marks the group’s first major foray into the debates about online misinformation and social media accountability, a topic the Biden White House has remained largely silent on since he entered office in January. Launched in March, the Building Back Together group has sought to boost Biden’s Covid-19 recovery plan and other policy agenda items, such as his infrastructure proposal.
But the group recently ramped up its work on expanding voting rights and access, efforts Democratic organizers have long feared could be hurt by online misinformation.
In a statement provided to POLITICO, Bauer called the spread of disinformation “a profound threat to the health of American democracy.” And he said the riot at the Capitol showed “what can happen when platforms like Facebook fail to protect against the gross abuse of its platform and amplify those who spread lies.”
A legal adviser for Building Back Together who spoke on condition of anonymity said the group expects election misinformation on social media to remain one of its focuses. It will also keep tabs on how Facebook responds to the oversight board’s recommendations.
Facebook suspended Trump indefinitely on Jan. 7, a day after he used the platform to voice support for his supporters as they stormed the Capitol. The company later referred the case to the oversight board, which has the power to overturn some of its content moderation calls.
While the board upheld Trump’s suspension, it criticized Facebook for handing down an indefinite suspension and told the company to revisit the decision within six months.
In response, Facebook said it would “consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate,” and additionally “carefully review its recommendations.”