In late 2020, Twitter and Facebook expanded efforts to label posts undermining or delegitimizing the U.S. election, a move that led to high-profile clashes with former president Donald Trump over his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and a rigged election.

But a review by The Washington Post found that the platforms have since declined to add labels to over two dozen posts that spread unsubstantiated claims of “election theft” or mass voter fraud from one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, including in the days leading up to Jan. 6.

The findings show a notable gap in how the two tech companies have enforced those policies, which Democratic leaders had criticized as being insufficient to curb the flood of election misinformation that percolated online during and after the election.

And they offer a glimpse into the challenges they are likely to face heading into the 2022 midterms, where candidates are poised to spread more falsehoods about the 2020 tally.

Mo Brooks

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks in Washington at the Jan. 6 rally before the attack on the U.S. Capitol. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., whose role in stoking falsehoods about the election ahead of the Capitol insurrection is facing mounting scrutiny from congressional Democrats, has peppered the social media platforms with posts suggesting the election was stolen or plagued by fraud.

The posts date back at least as far as the weeks immediately after the election was declared for President Joe Biden and span to as recently as October, when Brooks posted on both Twitter and Facebook that there was “rampant” voter fraud and “election theft” in 2020. Those posts, along with a slew of others, remain active and unlabeled on Twitter and Facebook.

The posts appear to run afoul of policies Facebook and Twitter implemented months prior in a bid to safeguard the integrity of the election.

In September 2020, Facebook announced it would “attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods.” Later that month, Twitter similarly said it would label or remove “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process.”

“We will not permit our service to be abused around civic processes, most importantly elections,” Twitter wrote in a blog post at the time. “Any attempt to do so – both foreign and domestic – will be met with strict enforcement of our rules, which are applied equally and judiciously for everyone.”

A few months later, in December 2020, Brooks falsely claimed in a tweet that there was “compelling & overwhelming evidence of massive voter fraud & election theft.” The same day, Brooks claimed in posts on both Facebook and Twitter that “we are witness to the largest voter fraud and election theft effort in the history of the United States.” The posts remain unchecked.

Twitter and Facebook did not respond to questions about whether the Brooks posts violated their election policies.

But in a statement, Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said that the platform’s civic integrity rules are “designed for use during the duration of an election or other civic event” and so “we are no longer enforcing our Civic Integrity Policy on content related to the outcome of the now-concluded 2020 U.S. election.”

A spokesman for Facebook parent-company Meta, Kevin McAlister, said in a statement, “The responsibility for the violence on January 6 lies with those who attacked the Capitol and those who encouraged them.”

Twitter also declined to label posts by Brooks attacking the legitimacy of the election in the days leading up to and even during the siege on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters.

On Jan. 5, 2021, Brooks tweeted from his congressional account urging senators to “fight voter fraud & election theft” and claiming that “Socialist Democrats exploited to steal this election.” At 2:18 p.m. the next day, as Trump supporters smashed into the Capitol and as the House weighed objections to the certification of the election, Brooks tweeted, “Now we will find who supports, and who fights, voter fraud & election theft!” Neither of the posts received labels.

Brooks’s actions have emerged as a focal point for Democrats investigating to what extent, if any, Republican members of Congress helped to incite insurrection on Jan. 6. The lawmaker has denied any intent to spark the attack and said he was merely urging protesters to battle at the ballot box. (“The idea that I would encourage and incite violence on myself, my friends, and my colleagues is absurd,” Brooks said in a Jan. 12, 2021, statement.)

Some of Brooks’s posts did receive labels from the platforms. They include tweets from Dec. 6 and Dec. 8, 2020, claiming that the “largest voter fraud and election theft in American history” had just occurred and that voting by mail is “rife with voter fraud.”

Brooks has criticized tech companies for taking enforcement action against his posts in the past, accusing them of harboring an anti-conservative bias. Spokespeople for Brooks did not respond to a request for comment on his election posts.

The findings show that while the platforms have drawn headlines for their enforcement actions against Trump, they have overlooked smaller players and allies who also stoked, and continue to stoke, conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Brooks, who is running for Senate with an endorsement from Trump, is one of several Republican candidates who have made false claims about the 2020 election and are likely to test the social media platforms’ policies heading into the 2022 midterms.


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