Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg was lambasted on social media on Monday after she claimed that last week’s Capitol insurrection was not “largely organized” on Facebook, but on other platforms “that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards, and don’t have our transparency.”
In a Livestream interview with Reuters posted Monday, the Facebook chief operating officer talked about President Donald Trump’s involvement with Facebook, his subsequent ban from the platform, and the proliferation of his rhetoric on the forum. When asked whether Facebook could have done more to prevent the Capitol riot, Sandberg said:
We again took down QAnon, Proud Boys, Stop the Steal, anything that was talking about possible violence last week. Our enforcement is never perfect, so I’m sure there were still things on Facebook. I think these events were primarily organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, our standards, and our transparency.
Sandberg acknowledged Facebook’s announcement on Monday that it would be removing content that included the phrase “stop the steal” from Facebook and Instagram, which it owns, to combat misinformation.
“We began preparing for Inauguration Day last year. But our planning took on new urgency after last week’s violence in Washington, D.C., and we are treating the next two weeks as a major civic event,” it wrote in a company blog post.
In her interview with Reuters, Sandberg added that “it may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step.”
As of Monday night, Facebook was still suggesting Inauguration Day events hosted by the same groups behind the insurrection at the Capitol last week.
Additionally, the platform has been implored to “undertake reasonable measures” to retain any content connected to the insurrection in preparation for future legal action. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a letter dated Friday, saying: “The texts, videos and pictures posted to your platforms ― and associated meta-data, cloud backups and subscriber information ― are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice. The United States Capitol is now a crime scene.”
Sandberg’s remarks were met with much criticism on social media and beyond. Misinformation watchdog Media Matters for America pushed back on Sandberg’s suggestion that Facebook’s role was more minor than it was and said her rhetoric was “designed to deflect attention from Facebook and shift the blame to other platforms like Parler.” Parler is a right-wing social media network removed from the Apple and Google app stores last week and blocked from using Amazon’s hosting services on Monday.
Media Matters “identified at least 70 active Facebook groups that were either named for or affiliated with ‘Stop the Steal’ that Facebook could have taken action against long before today.” Of the 70 groups the watchdog found, 46 of them were private.
A spokesperson for Sandberg declined to comment for this story. On Twitter, people called out Sandberg for not taking responsibility and even accused her of lying.