Social media groups focused on ending state lockdowns have become hubs for spreading conspiracy theories, medical misinformation and racist venom.
“Reopen” groups remain on Facebook, which had shut down similar groups for sowing coronavirus disinformation, and group members share inflammatory and often false content about the pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, reported the Huffington Post.
“The memes, the emotionally triggering captions, that was what was getting the engagement,” said Diara Townes, an investigative researcher at First Draft. “The clearly misleading or just full-on misinformation that was getting posted ― that was the stuff that people had a paragraph or essay-length post and opinion on.”
Group members share content promoting the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy movement and anti-vaccination misinformation, along with generalized attacks on government officials, public health experts and the media.
Facebook removed numerous anti-lockdown groups and pages promoting protests in late April for violating state health guidelines or posting threats against government officials, but some of the groups that escaped scrutiny have rebranded themselves as promoting constitutional rights or “resisting tyranny.”
The company’s employees staged a virtual walkout at the beginning of June after President Donald Trump posted violent threats against protesters, and multiple companies have stopped advertising on the social media site.
Fact-checkers have struggled to keep up with coronavirus misinformation, and anti-government pages such as various “Boogaloo”-related groups have proliferated too quickly for Facebook to remove them all.
“Misinformation, disinformation ― it’s easy, it’s cheap and it’s quick to make and get out there,” Townes said. “And it’s easy to consume.”