- Sen. Ed Markey wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg condemning Facebook’s practice of recommending political groups to people.
- “Facebook’s system of recommending political groups poses grave threats to American democracy and public safety,” Markey wrote.
- The letter references the siege on the US Capitol on January 6 — insurrectionists were found to have organized online.
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US Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) wrote a scathing letter to Mark Zuckerberg condemning Facebook’s method of recommending political groups to users on its platform. A representative of Markey’s office shared the letter with Insider.
The Massachusetts senator said Facebook not only allows users to “organize and coordinate violent and anti-democratic efforts on these pages,” but that it recommends them to people.
“Facebook’s system of recommending political groups poses grave threats to American democracy and public safety,” Markey wrote in the letter. “Many Facebook groups (pages on your platform that function as forums for users to communicate about a particular topic) are breeding grounds for hate, echo-chambers of misinformation, and venues for coordination of violence, including explicit planning for the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
Markey said Facebook “failed to meet commitments it made” to stop the practice, commitments that Markey said were also made in Zuckerberg’s responses during a hearing before the US Senate in October.
During the hearing, Zuckerberg said the company has taken "the step of stopping recommendations in groups for all political content or social issue groups as a precaution for this." In early January, Facebook reiterated that it still does not recommend political groups for people to join. But according to Markey, Facebook is not keeping to its word.
The senator referenced an investigation by The Markup that found 12 of the top 100 groups recommending on Facebook were political, including groups that promoted violence.
Markey is demanding that Facebook address this discrepancy and provide an explanation by February 9.
"We have a clear policy against recommending civic or political groups on our platforms, and are investigating why these were recommended in the first place," Facebook spokesperson Daniel Roberts told Insider in an email.
The pro-Trump extremists that stormed the Capitol were found to have organized online weeks in advance, including on Facebook. They were supporters of the "Stop the Steal" campaign, which contends that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
Days after the Capitol siege, Facebook said it would remove all posts that referenced "stop the steal" due to its policy on Coordinating Harm. The company already removed the original "Stop the Steal" group in November over false election claims and "worrying calls for violence."
Facebook said the day after the riot that it was suspending Trump until the end of his presidency and until "the peaceful transition of power is complete." President Joe Biden was sworn into office on January 20.
Facebook and other tech platforms have faced mounting pressure amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election to stop people from spreading false information online.
You can read Markey's letter in full below: