Right-Wing Defenses Of Trump Are Incinerated By Prosecution Disclosures

Right-Wing Defenses Of Trump Are Incinerated By Prosecution Disclosures

The 47-page federal criminal indictment against former President Donald Trump unsealed on Friday incinerates months of desperate attempts by his media allies to excuse his behavior in handling classified material and the resulting probe of his actions.

Trump’s sycophants have claimed that Trump did not do anything wrong -- but the indictment says:

  • Trump kept the documents in unsecured locations at Mar-a-Lago, including a ballroom and bathroom.
  • Trump allegedly bragged that he had classified documents, acknowledging that he didn’t and could no longer declassify them while showing them to visitors.
  • Classified documents related to U.S. nuclear programs were found at Mar-a-Lago.
  • Trump’s actions were unique from other instances of people maintaining classified documents in that he willfully and knowingly mishandled the documents.
  • Trump himself packed boxes.
  • Trump admitted in an audio recording that he couldn’t declassify a document after he left office.

DEFENSE: The docs were secured

Right-wing media have claimed that the documents were secure at Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago. Fox News host Mark Levin said the documents were “safer at Mar-a-Lago” than “at the National Archives.” Conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec tweeted similar sentiments, saying, “Mar-a-Lago is protected inside and out by Secret Service federal agents at all times.”

INDICTMENT: Trump kept the documents in unsecured locations at Mar-a-Lago

As the indictment explains, Mar-a-Lago “was not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents. Nevertheless, Trump stored his boxes containing classified documents in various locations,” including in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.” The indictment breaks down the locations, saying they include:

  • “The Mar-a-Lago Club’s White and Gold Ballroom, in which events and gatherings took place.”
  • “The business center at The Mar-a-Lago Club.”
  • “The shower where his other stuff is” in“The Mar-a-Lago Club’s Lake Room.”
  • The “Storage Room,” the hallway for which “could be reached from multiple outside entrances, including one accessible from The Mar-a-Lago Club pool patio through a doorway that was often kept open,” and which “was near the liquor supply closet, linen room, lock shop, and various other rooms.”
  • Trump’s “summer residence at The Bedminster Club,” which, like Mar-a-Lago, “was not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents.”
  • “Pine Hall,” which is “an entry room in Trump’s residence."
  • Trump’s office.

DEFENSE: The documents were declassified

After the FBI seized documents during its search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump and his allies in right-wing media repeatedly claimed that Trump had issued a “standing order” to declassify documents at “the moment he removed them” from the Oval Office, with some even saying he was “the classification authority” and could essentially “wave a magic wand” to declassify documents without a paper trail.

Simultaneously, Trump sycophant and serial misinformer John Solomon and former Trump Department of Defense official Kash Patel — both of whom were named Trump’s representatives to the National Archives — claimed to be “on a mission” to prove Trump had declassified the documents.

Right-wing media continued to push these claims in recent months.

INDICTMENT: Trump allegedly bragged that he had classified documents, acknowledging that he didn’t and could no longer declassify them while showing them to visitors

According to the indictment, “on two occasions in 2021, Trump showed classified documents to others,” including in one instance where Trump noted that the U.S. military “plan of attack” document he was sharing was “highly confidential” and “secret information,” adding, “See as president I could have declassified it. … Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”

DEFENSE: There were no serious classified materials

After news broke that the FBI was looking for material pertaining to nuclear weapons at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Fox host Sean Hannity, along with others in conservative media, downplayed the reporting, repeating Trump’s statement that “nuclear weapons, that issue is a hoax.”

And after it was reported that the FBI’s search proved to be fruitful, right-wing media still tried to leap to Trump’s defense.

On Fox News, host Laura Ingraham claimed, “And the issue of the nuclear capabilities of other countries, the CIA, I believe, has its own website that gives a lot of this information about — right?” Geraldo Rivera compared Trump's alleged crimes to “a library book that was overdue.”

INDICTMENT: Classified documents about U.S. nuclear programs were found at Mar-a-Lago

According to the indictment, included in the boxes of classified documents was information “regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries” and about “United States nuclear programs.” According to the Department of Justice: “The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”

DEFENSE: Everyone does it

Right-wing media have echoed Trump’s repeated claims that other presidents had also taken classified documents and suggested that Trump is being indicted only as a part of a “witch hunt” against him.

INDICTMENT: Trump’s actions were unique in that he willfully mishandled the documents

Trump’s claims about these specific former presidents have been debunked and while former Vice President Mike Pence and President Joe Biden found classified documents at their properties, they immediately returned them and have not faced any charges. The indictment shows a clear disparity, alleging that Trump “did willfully retain the documents,” knew he had the documents, and knew they were classified.

In the indictment, Trump is quoted as saying to a staffer that a document he showed was “secret information” and that “as president he could have declassified it” but now he can’t. Further, when subpoenaed to turn over the documents, Trump “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigation, and conceal his continued retention of classified documents,” the indictment alleges.

DEFENSE: Trump didn’t pack the boxes

Some right-wing media figures have claimed that the former president lacks culpability because he supposedly didn’t pack the boxes himself.

Fox’s Sean Duffy asked, “Do you think that he went through the boxes at Mar-a-Lago? Do you think he knows what he had in those boxes? I don’t think he did."

Former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer made the same claim on Fox, saying, “If President Trump himself did not pack up those boxes — if, as reported, GSA, the General Services Administration packed up the boxes, then it’s very hard to see culpability for the president. And I have it on reliable authority that Donald Trump himself never opened those boxes in Mar-a-Lago and has no idea what’s in them.”

INDICTMENT: Trump himself packed boxes

According to the indictment, “In January 2021, as he was preparing to leave the White House, Trump and his White House staff, including [Trump aide Walt] Nauta, packed items, including some of Trump’s boxes.” The indictment added, “Trump was personally involved in this process.”

DEFENSE: Nobody knows the proper declassification procedure anyway

On his radio show, Hannity downplayed potential obstruction of justice charges against Trump, and said: “I would argue, legally, he doesn't have any obligation to cooperate with, and nor can anyone give a real definition of whether or not, you know, exactly how one president is supposed to declassify the materials anyway.”

INDICTMENT: Trump says on tape that he couldn't declassify documents after leaving office

The indictment reveals that Trump had knowledge of the proper declassification procedure. In an audio recording during a meeting he had with a writer and several other people, “Trump showed and described a ‘plan of attack’ that Trump said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense.”

Trump told them that the plan he was showing was “highly confidential” and “secret,” and said, “As president I could have declassified it,” but “now I can’t.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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While Trump Incites Potential Violence, Meta Monetizes His Facebook Ads

On March 18, former President Donald Trump started running Facebook ads from his own page — the first time that his page has run new ads since Meta allowed him to return to the platform and gave him full advertising access. The same day, Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social and called for his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”

On January 25, two years after Trump was suspended for inciting violence on January 6, 2021, Meta announced that the company would be reinstating his accounts on its platforms. In deciding that Trump could return, the company determined that “the risk to public safety,” which it set out as the measure for ending his ban, has “sufficiently receded” — a flawed assessment given Trump’s history of pushing dangerous misinformation. The accounts were ultimately restored on February 9, with Trump posting on Facebook again on March 17.

Media Matters has now found that his previously suspended page started running ads again on March 18, attacking the “Deep State,” “Fake News,” and “Big Tech.” Several of the ads feature Trump telling his followers: “The Deep State and Fake News will do everything in their power to destroy me and stop YOU from having a voice in your own country.”

Half of the ads include video of Trump attacking Facebook and other tech companies: “Your all-time favorite president is back on Facebook. What Big Tech did to me and you was an absolute disgrace.”

While Trump’s page started running these ads, Trump was posting on Truth Social, suggesting that he will be arrested on March 21 and claiming that “IT’S TIME” and he needs his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” and “SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”

Throughout his suspension, Trump ran Meta ads from various pages run by his joint fundraising committee, but limitations such as a prohibition on ads that were in his voice reportedly made fundraising more difficult and Trump’s ad spending on Meta’s platforms before his suspension dwarfed the PAC’s ad spending while he was banned. (His Facebook page was the platform’s largest political advertiser in the last five years.)

By reinstating Trump’s accounts, Meta prioritized the revenue it will get from Trump over public safety. On the day his page ran new ads for the first time since his reinstatement, he was on another platform encouraging his supporters to protest — demonstrating that the threat he poses to public safety has clearly not receded.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

How Google Monetizes Far-Right Outlets And Drives Their Traffic

Don't Be Evil: How Google Monetizes Far-Right Social Media And Drives Their Traffic

New analysis provides some insight into the extent to which far-right social media platforms — such as Truth Social, Gab, Parler, Gettr, and Rumble — use Google’s enormous advertising network to expand their audience. In the past 12 months, these fringe platforms have spent roughly $258,000 on ad networks including Google, likely just a fraction of their full spend and a sum that Google’s $210 billion advertising business could surely do without.

Media Matters and others have reported on Google’s history of letting far-right actors monetize extremism, such as helping the monetization of racist and dangerous anti-Muslim articles from the fake news website Freedom Daily, allowing anti-abortion centers to target women with misleading and unlabeled ads, and letting former Trump aide Steve Bannon monetize his website even as he was banned on Google-owned YouTube.

This week, Media Matters reported that a Dewey Square analysis of data from traffic analytics company Similarweb found that Google’s ad network is driving traffic and new users to fringe video-sharing platform Rumble, while also monetizing some of its traffic. Notably, Rumble had 622 million U.S. visits in the last year (from October 2021 through September 2022), and nearly 48% of U.S. display ad traffic driving users to Rumble during that time came from Google Display Network ads.

Additional analysis from Dewey found that Google is similarly generating revenue from other fringe platforms and far-right websites that are filled with extremism. In fact, Google’s ad network promotes traffic to multiple fringe platforms, monetizes visits to the platforms with ads to third-party sites including far-right websites, and then monetizes visits to those websites with ads to other sites.

Google’s ad network generates revenue and promotes traffic to these alternative far-right social media platforms

In addition to Rumble, Dewey’s analysis found that Truth Social, Gettr, Gab, and Parler — fringe platforms that boast minimal content moderation policies and allow hate speech, misinformation, and conspiracy theories — had over 124 million U.S. visits combined in the last year (from October 2021 through September 2022).

Google’s ad network is responsible for some of the traffic to the fringe platforms. In the last year, more than 46 percent of U.S. display ad traffic driving users to these fringe platforms came from Google Display Network ads. Of this traffic, 63 percent went to Rumble and 20 percent went to Gettr, while another 11 percent went to Gab, and six percent went to Parler.

Dewey traced the estimated sums of money that Gettr, Parler, Gab, and Rumble spent on U.S.-based advertising over the last year and found that they spent at least $397,000 and earned at least 108 million ad impressions combined. More than 65% of this advertising spend, or over $258,000, was through ad networks, including Google.

Here is an example of display ads used to drive new traffic to the fringe platforms:

Far-right platforms use Google’s ad network to monetize traffic

While some of the platforms do try to earn revenue by selling merchandise or offering paid account upgrades, advertising monetization is another source of income.

Dewey’s analysis found over 246,000 U.S. display ad visits monetizing the fringe platforms in the last year (from October 2021 through September 2022). Of these visits, Google Display Network made up more than 65 percent, with 220 advertisers using the network.

These advertisers on fringe platforms using Google Display Network include right-wing media outlets, such as Washington Examiner and The Epoch Times, and right-wing websites, such as the American Center for Law & Justice, Republican fundraising website WinRed, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Notably, Dewey found that the NRSC was the largest advertiser on Rumble over this last year, spending over $577,000 on ads on the platform.) These right-wing sites also used Google’s display ad network to monetize their sites.

Additionally, these large companies are advertising on fringe platforms through Google’s ad network:

  • Amazon
  • Lending Tree
  • Chevrolet
  • Subaru
  • Walmart
  • Ancestry.com

Google is providing a valuable source of revenue to these still relatively small and fringe far-right social media platforms that are allowing the spread of harmful content and extremism. They need Google far more than Google needs them.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Facebook Lets Russia And China Promote Ukraine ‘Bioweapons’ Lie

Facebook Lets Russia And China Promote Ukraine ‘Bioweapons’ Lie

On Facebook, Russia, its ally China, and right-wing media outlets and personalities are pushing pro-invasion propaganda and disinformation, including the latest false theory that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was undertaken partly to target U.S.-linked labs working to create bioweapons.

Facebook and other social media companies have taken some actions to restrict Russia’s ability to spread disinformation about the invasion, which includes blocking Russian state media from advertising on the platform. But Facebook is allowing Russian government accounts and state media accounts to remain on the platform and push propaganda with organic posts, while also allowing Russia’s ally China to monetize this propaganda via ads.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, RT — one of Russia’s state-controlled media outlets — has posted at least 12 times pushing the conspiracy theory or related claims, according to data compiled from CrowdTangle. These posts have earned at least 30,000 interactions. Notably, four of the posts are videos that were added on March 8 and 9 falsely claiming U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland confirmed that the U.S. was developing bioweapons in Ukraine. These videos earned nearly 200,000 views and only one of the videos has a label noting that there is “missing context.”

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RT_facebook posts_videos_20220308 and 20220309

Beyond the videos, there is only one other post from RT about the labs that is labeled as “missing context.”

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The other posts from RT that push the conspiracy theory include:

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Russia’s propaganda efforts have been bolstered by its ally China and right-wing media in the U.S. also pushing the conspiracy theory. Media Matters has already reported on Meta, Facebook’s parent company, earning revenue on ads promoting the conspiracy theory, including one that was run by Chinese state-controlled media. Since our initial report, at least two additional ads from Chinese state-controlled media have pushed conspiracy theories about U.S.-Ukraine biolabs.

Since the invasion, right-leaning Facebook pages have posted 336 times about the conspiracy theory and have earned almost 500,000 interactions on these posts. In fact, right-leaning pages account for nearly 60% of posts about the conspiracy theory that were posted by politics and news Facebook pages, and they have earned nearly 60% of total interactions.

Many of these posts are from right-wing media outlets and personalities, including six of the 10 posts with the most interactions. The post from right-leaning pages with the most interactions is Fox host Tucker Carlson’s post with video of him pushing the theory on his show. (Carlson has pushed the theory on his show multiple times.) His Facebook video has over 310,000 views.

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Facebook boasts that it has taken action to curb Russian propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine, but the platform is still allowing the propaganda to thrive, including in ads that even earn revenue for Facebook and the other parties.


Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 to August 25, 2020.

For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.

The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.

Every day, Media Matters also uses Facebook's CrowdTangle tool and this methodology to identify and share the 10 posts with the most interactions from top political and news-related Facebook pages.

Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts for the pages on this list that were posted from February 24 through March 20, 2022 and were related to the Ukraine-US biolabs conspiracy theory. We reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions (reactions, comments, and shares). One post that was a false positive was removed from the final dataset.

We defined posts as related to the Ukraine-U.S. biolabs conspiracy theory if they had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “Ukraine bio-lab,” “Ukraine bio lab,” “Ukraine biolab,” “Ukrainian bio-lab,” “Ukrainian bio lab,” “Ukrainian biolab,” “bio-lab in Ukraine,” “bio lab in Ukraine,” “biolab in Ukraine,” “Central Reference Laboratory,” “level-3 bio-safety lab,” “Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program,” “Odessa-based laboratory,” “biowarfare lab,” “Victoria Nuland,” “biological research facilities,” “bio-lab,” “biolab,” “bio lab,” “biolabs,” “bio-labs,” “bio labs,” “biological lab,” “biological labs,” “biological research,” “bio-safety,” “biosafety,” “biowarfare,” “bioweapons,” “bio-warfare,” or “bio-weapons."

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Facebook Groups Worldwide Pushing Livestock Medications For Covid-19

Facebook Groups Worldwide Pushing Livestock Medications For Covid-19

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Facebook is allowing groups on its platform to promote the use and sale of ivermectin -- a drug typically prescribed to fight parasites in humans and large animals -- to prevent and treat COVID-19, even though the social media company claims that it removes such content as part of its policy against medical misinformation.

In the last week, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both warned against unapproved use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19, after increased reports of patients harmed by self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses. The drug is used to treat intestinal conditions caused by parasitic worms in both animals and people, but the large doses typically prescribed for veterinary use are dangerous for humans.

Despite these warnings -- as well as Facebook's own policy against promoting the purchase, sale, or other misinformation about ivermectin -- users on the platform are sharing ways to use ivermectin for COVID-19, with some even recommending methods for other users to acquire the drug. In fact, Media Matters has found 47 active Facebook groups with nearly 65,000 combined members centered around ivermectin and its use for COVID-19. The majority of these groups were created in 2021, and they're based around the world, including in the United States, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Facebook has taken little action against these groups, despite other reporting on violative content about ivermectin on the platform. At the time of publication, Facebook has taken down one public group, "The People's Medicine: Ivermectin; Safe Effective Economical (S E E)," that had already garnered roughly 17,000 members, and some posts promoting the use of ivermectin have been flagged with a banner warning users that "unapproved COVID-19 treatments may cause serious harm." Upon clicking on the banner, users are redirected to Facebook's COVID-19 Information Center, but they receive no other immediate information on the drug.

Dozens of other ivermectin-focused groups are still active and promoting violative content on Facebook. Group members frequently ask where to acquire a prescription for ivermectin and for information on dosage and drug combinations, and other members point them to fringe outlets such as America's Frontline Doctors or veterinarian supply stores.

In one private group -- IVERMECTIN MD TEAM -- over 27,000 members have access to this harmful misinformation. Facebook has often struggled to properly enforce its policies against COVID-19 misinformation, particularly within private Facebook groups, which can be more difficult for the platform to moderate.

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Other pro-ivermectin Facebook groups are spreading similar misinformation on the platform.

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In addition to ivermectin-specific groups, other anti-vaccination and pro-Trump private Facebook groups are also exchanging information on where to buy the drug, how to dose it, and sharing testimonials.

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The unchecked promotion of yet another unproven treatment for COVID-19 more than a year after the disease first emerged -- particularly given the effectiveness of vaccines developed specifically to fight it -- highlights Facebook's continued failure to protect its users from dangerous medical misinformation in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Trump PAC Raising Funds On Facebook Despite His Suspension

Trump PAC Raising Funds On Facebook Despite His Suspension

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Facebook's latest policy carve-out for former President Donald Trump, which allows Trump's political action committees to run ads as long they are not "in his voice," has permitted Trump to fundraise and promote his events on the platform, even though he is suspended for at least two years. In return, Facebook has earned at least $10,000 in revenue on these ads.

On June 21, Politico reported that Trump's Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, a joint venture between his Make America Great Again PAC and his newer Save America leadership PAC, had started sponsoring Facebook ads on the Team Trump campaign page. The Team Trump page, which hasn't run any ads since the 2020 election, is also now managed by the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, and it was run by the Trump campaign as recently as May.

Media Matters analyzed data from Facebook's Ad Library and found that Team Trump has run 258 ads since June 16, spending at least $10,200 and earning at least 1.3 million impressions on ads fundraising off Trump's visit to the border, attacking President Joe Biden, supporting Trump and "the MAGA Movement," or promoting his upcoming rally in Ohio. At time of publication, 37 of the ads are active.

Trump's fundraising committee is running these ads even though Facebook has suspended him from the platform for at least two years, citing his "acts of incitement" in order "to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future." (Responding to Politico's initial reporting about the ads, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said, "Groups affiliated with the former president are not barred from posting on Facebook so long as they are not posting in his voice.")

In addition to inciting violence, thousands of Trump's Facebook posts also contained misinformation, warranted an additional information label, or contained harmful rhetoric about others. Facebook allowed Trump to abuse the platform for years, with policy exemptions and weak or ineffective attempts to rein in lies from the former president and his campaign. As but one example, the platform's policyof not fact-checking politicians in ads allowed Facebook to profit from thousands of misleading ads spreading smears and misinformation that Trump ran. And in some cases -- such as with the platform's labeling system -- Facebook's policy may have actually backfired, amplifying Trump's misinformation.

Despite Trump's suspension, his Facebook and Instagram pages remain visible and his old content continues to garner new engagement. Now, this latest policy carve-out allowing "affiliated groups" to run pro-Trump ads as long they are not "in his voice" functionally permits Trump to fundraise on Facebook and promote his events through his network of PACs.

Promoting Trump's Ohio Rally

Since June 16, Team Trump has run at least 119 ads promoting Trump's Ohio rally to be held in July, encouraging people to "get your free tickets now." At time of publication, Facebook has removed 86 of them for violating its advertising policies. (It is unclear which policy they violated.) Trump's fundraising committee spent at least $6,500 and earned more than 490,000 impressions on five different versions of these Ohio rally ads:

Team Trump Facebook ads promoting Trump's Ohio rally_1

Team Trump Facebook ads promoting Trump's Ohio rally_2

Fundraising Off Trump's Border Visit

On June 24, Team Trump started running ads fundraising off Trump's visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. At time of publication, there are at least 10 ads, four of which remain active. Trump's fundraising committee spent less than $300 and earned under 6,000 impressions on three different versions of these ads:

Team Trump Facebook ads fundraising off Trump's visit to the border (1)

Anti-Biden Fundraising

Since June 16, Team Trump has run at least 56 fundraising ads attacking Biden and declaring that "America is in DECLINE." At time of publication, 15 of these ads remain active. Trump's fundraising committee spent at least $900 and earned more than 140,000 impressions on three different versions of these ads:

Team Trump facebook anti-Biden fundraising ads (1)

Pro-Trump Fundraising

Since June 16, Team Trump has run at least 73 fundraising ads in support of Trump and "the America First agenda." At time of publication, 18 of these ads remain active. Trump's fundraising committee spent at least $2,800 and earned more than 745,000 impressions with four different versions of these ads:

Team Trump Facebook pro-Trump fundraising ads

Deceptive Anti-Vax Propaganda Still Proliferating On Facebook

Deceptive Anti-Vax Propaganda Still Proliferating On Facebook

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Facebook removed an anti-vaccine group that had already amassed more than 125,000 members, but this move will only minorly inconvenience the group, as members had already set up alternate channels of communication. What's more, this group is only one of over 100 active Facebook groups that contain harmful anti-vaccine misinformation.

On April 22, Facebook removed a large private group dedicated to gathering stories of people allegedly injured by the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the company, the group was removed because it had violated Facebook's harmful misinformation policies. A spokesperson told BBC News, "We allow people to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines but if information could lead to someone being harmed, we remove it."

On its face this seems like a step in the right direction for a platform that has been negligent in its response to dangerous COVID-19 misinformation. However, the group amassed more than 125,000 followers before it was taken down, and they are already successfully reorganizing, setting up a Telegram group and a new social media platform.

The removed group, COVID 19 VACCINE VICTIMS AND FAMILIES, was created on March 29, 2021, and its "About" section stated, "The idea of this group is for victims families to unite and for the victims stories to be heard so we can get justice." The group grew rapidly, particularly in the four days before removal, when it gained an average of over 12,500 members per day. Members would share anecdotes about friends and relatives receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and falling ill, claiming the vaccine was the cause.

Before the Facebook takedown, group members began expressing concerns about possible removal and preparing to organize in other spaces. Invites to a Telegramgroup, set up on April 5, are still prominently displayed on Facebook, with instructions for users to join the channel in order to circumvent Facebook action. On April 18, the group created a new social media platform, modeled after Facebook but explicitly for "vaccine victims." That same day, a Facebook user posted that the group had been "suspended" but said, "I think you can still join the fb group and read the stories before it's removed." The group has also launched a new Facebook group, under a pseudonym. In less than a day, the new group gained roughly 1,100 members, and at the time of publishing, it has roughly 4,000 members.

Despite Facebook's action against the private group COVID19 VACCINE VICTIMS AND FAMILIES, there is still ample anti-vaccine misinformation on the platform. Media Matters has identified 117 additional anti-vaccine Facebook groups that are still active on the platform. The roughly 275,000 members of these groups are exposed to harmful anti-vaccine content, and as nearly 80% of these groups are private, it is more difficult for Facebook to moderate them.

Of these 117 groups, some explicitly call themselves "anti-vaxx" or "anti-vaccine," while others have similar names as the group Facebook removed. Some groups are likely trying to avoid moderation by using more deceptive language, such as "V@xynes" or "V@ccine."

The three biggest groups, with tens of thousands of members each, are plagued with vaccine misinformation, other COVID-19 misinformation, and conspiracy theories.

Vaccine Education Network : Natural Health Anti-Vaxx Community

This private group with roughly 41,800 members promotes misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, including false claims that the vaccine will cause serious medical problems:

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MTHFR Connections: Tongue Ties, Autism, V@xynes, Leaky Gut

This private group with roughly 27,700 members is dedicated to pushing a baseless claim that the MTHFR gene causes a harmful reaction to the vaccine. Members in the group promote this baseless claim and provide each other with medical misinformation. Egregious examples include:

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With roughly 18,000 members, this private group promotes misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and conspiracy theories, and it even has screenshots of posts from the anti-vaccine group that Facebook removed:

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Facebook relies on the idea that things will inevitably slip through the cracks to excuse its weak moderation efforts. Vice president of integrity Guy Rosen ended a March blog post about misinformation by noting that Facebook's "enforcement will never be perfect" and that "nobody can eliminate misinformation from the internet entirely." However, as this example shows, Facebook groups are frequently not relying on subtlety when broadcasting to followers where to find anti-vaccine misinformation — on the platform and off. Anti-vaccine misinformation on Facebook is not buried, and the way anti-vaccine advocates evade moderation is not a secret. Facebook's poor content moderation is inexcusable, and although the removal of one larger group is a good first step, this latest lackluster effort is not a replacement for sufficient moderation.

Research contributions from Carly Evans and Kellie Levine

Twitter Users Promoting Fake 'Vaccination Exemption' Cards Against Platform's Policy

Twitter Users Promoting Fake 'Vaccination Exemption' Cards Against Platform's Policy

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

With research contributions by Kellie Levine

So-called "vaccination exemption" cards — which have no legal basis — are being promoted on social media platforms, including Twitter, which just updated its policy against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. Despite this policy, tweets promoting online stores that sell these cards are still on the platform.

On March 1, Twitter announced that it would be "applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines." Earlier, the platform had implemented a policy against false claims about COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020, saying users may have to remove tweets with false suggestions that vaccines are used for population control, widely debunked claims of alleged adverse effects from the vaccine, and false claims that the vaccine is unnecessary.

Despite Twitter's policies against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, there are tweets promoting supposed "vaccination exemption" cards, which allegedly allow holders to invoke the right of "informed consent." This term, which typically applies to clinical trials and medical procedures, is often misleadingly used when referring to the requirement for health care providers to give patients information about the benefits and risks associated with vaccinations. These "vaccination exemption" cards have no legal basis, as there is no federal requirement for "informed consent" related to vaccinations and there are currently no COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

In addition to "vaccination exemption" cards, fake "mask exemption" cards have been promoted on Twitter and other social media platforms since mask mandates were initially implemented in April 2020, even prompting the Department of Justice to issue a warning discrediting them. These cards are still being promoted on social media, often alongside "vaccination exemption" cards, even though some posts about mask exemptions have been labeled by Facebook as containing false information. In fact, Facebook earned at least $57,000 on over 130 ads that promoted the cards. Facebook removed the majority of these ads, but they had already earned millions of impressions.

Links to buy these "vaccination exemption" cards have been posted on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Telegram. Notably, these cards have been promoted on Twitter, sometimes in conjunction with "mask exemption" cards. The cards are still being promoted, despite Twitter's latest policy against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

Notable examples include:

image of tweet with alleged "vaccination exemption" cardimage of tweet with alleged "vaccination exemption" cardimage of tweet with alleged "vaccination exemption" cardimage of tweet with alleged "vaccination exemption" cardimage of tweet with alleged "vaccination exemption" card

MyPillow Guy Is Kingpin Of Disinformation On Election and Virus

MyPillow Guy Is Kingpin Of Disinformation On Election and Virus

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A new video from MyPillow CEO and Trump supporter Mike Lindell that's filled with election falsehoods is spreading on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, even though each platform has a policy prohibiting this kind of misinformation.

Lindell has been a leading voice in promoting dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election (and bankrolling the proliferation of this lie) across right-wing media and social media.

Twitter permanently suspended Lindell for peddling election misinformation. Lindell then attempted to use his corporate MyPillow account to evade Twitter's ban; that account was also permanently suspended.

Lindell's Facebook and Instagram accounts are both active and full of election and COVID-19 misinformation. In fact, Lindell has access to multiple accounts for himself and his company. On Facebook, he has a personal account, a professional page, and a MyPillow corporate page. On Instagram, he has a verified personal account and a MyPillow account.

Even though former President Donald Trump's multiple attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election failed in courts, over 70% of likely Republican voters question the election results. Meanwhile, his supporters continue to push baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Lindell is one of Trump's most vocal supporters to promote unsubstantiated election fraud claims and conspiracy theories, and he recently released a film that The New York Times called a "disinfomercial." In the video, titled "Absolute Proof," Lindell spent over two hours falsely claiming that Trump won the election, making wild allegations of fraud that have no basis in reality, and railing against "cancel culture."

Following the release of Lindell's video on February 5, YouTube and Vimeo removed copies for violating each platform's election integrity policies, but additional versions of the film are still being uploaded to YouTube. Facebook and Twitter have both labeled posts sharing the film as misinformation and reduced its distribution, with Facebook confirming that the "video has been rated false by one of Facebook's third-party fact-checkers so it's been labeled and its distribution is being reduced." But Media Matters has still found active posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that have no label, and TikTok has not taken any action against posts with the video, even though the platform claimed on February 3 that it was taking new steps to crack down on misinformation.

Since before the election, social media platforms have claimed that they are trying to stop the spread of election misinformation, but these platforms have failed to adequately implement or consistently enforce related policies. For example, Facebook took minimal action against election misinformation from Trump and his allies on its platforms, allowing users to organize and promote"Stop the Steal" events, such as the January 6 rally that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Media Matters and others have documented similar failures of other platforms, such as Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

The limited actions of social media platforms has allowed Lindell's conspiracy-laden video to spread across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

Facebook and Instagram

Election misinformation policy: We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.

"Absolute Proof" is the latest example of Facebook being incapable or unwilling to consistently enforce its policies. Facebook confirmed that the video violates its policy and has labeled Lindell's posts linking to the film on both Facebook and Instagram as containing false information. But Media Matters has found Facebook and Instagram posts that are not labeled, including posts with links to versions of the video hosted on other websites and alternative platforms, such as Gab and Rumble. These posts are also circulating within private Facebook groups, which have been moredifficult for Facebook to moderate and for researchers and journalists trying to hold Facebook accountable to track.

Notable examples of Instagram posts with Lindell's film include:


Election misinformation policy: We will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process. This includes but is not limited to: disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself, such as unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results.

Versions of Lindell's film are also spreading on Twitter. The platform labeled an OAN tweet promoting "Absolute Proof" with a disclaimer: "This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can't be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence."

However, this standard of policy enforcement is not consistently applied to all clips of the video. The Twitter hashtag "#AbsoluteProof" displays tweets containing links to the full-length film, as well as unlabeled video clips.

Right Side Broadcasting Network also tweeted a link to the full film multiple times, but Twitter has not applied a label or restrictions on them.


Election misinformation policy: Our Community Guidelines prohibit misinformation that could cause harm to our community or the larger public, including content that misleads people about elections or other civic processes, content distributed by disinformation campaigns, and health misinformation.

Even though it violates TikTok's election misinformation policy, "Absolute Proof" is swiftly spreading on the platform. The "Absolute Proof" hashtag on TikTok already has nearly half a million views, and all of the top videos promote Lindell's video.

Some TikTok creators are directing users to external websites to view the film in its entirety while others are uploading it in sections.

"Look what I got. … Apparently they've been taking down this documentary, so I figured I'd snag it," said one user. "I'll post some goodies that I find. And yeah, take that, big tech." This video has over 190,000 views and the account has over 57,000 followers.


Election misinformation policy: Don't post content on YouTube if it fits any of the descriptions noted below.
Presidential Election Integrity: Content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of any past U.S. presidential election (Note: this applies to elections in the United States only). For the U.S. 2020 presidential election, this applies to content uploaded on or after December 9, 2020.

YouTube removed Lindell's video for violating its policies, but at the time of publication, there are many additional uploads still on YouTube. An advanced Google search for YouTube videos using the phrase "watch absolute proof" uploaded between February 5 and February 8 returned over 270 results.

There also appears to be a coordinated YouTube spam campaign centered around the Lindell film. All of the top results featured a series of screenshots from the film with overlaid text instructing users to click the "link" below to watch. The text slightly varied with each video, but the format and messaging appear uniform. These videos each have thousands of views.


Facebook Employees Cite Fresh Evidence Of Company's Pro-Conservative Bias

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

A new BuzzFeed report reveals that Facebook employees have evidence that shows the platform gives preferential treatment to right-wing Facebook pages, which is at stark odds with conservatives' frequent and unsubstantiated claims that social media platforms are censoring right-wing accounts.

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Anti-Vaccine Network Pushes Pandemic Conspiracies And Lies On Facebook

Anti-Vaccine Network Pushes Pandemic Conspiracies And Lies On Facebook

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

An anti-vaccine Facebook group and network of 17 affiliated state-specific groups have been using the social media platform to spread coronavirus conspiracy theories and misinformation, including a viral video falsely claiming that wearing masks could increase chances of getting coronavirus.

United States for Medical Freedom is a Facebook group with over 28,000 members that uses seemingly benign language to obfuscate its anti-vaccine message, claiming that its goal is to fight for "Medical Freedom & Autonomy." Since the group was created in September, members and the administrators of United States for Medical Freedom have frequently posted about opposition to vaccines, including misinformation about vaccines and calls to action against vaccination policies. One of its administrators claimed she testified on behalf of the group against Massachusetts bills regulating vaccinations necessary to enroll in school.

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Right-Wing Outlets Use McCabe Case To Urge Stone Pardon

Right-Wing Outlets Use McCabe Case To Urge Stone Pardon

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Right-wing media immediately seized on the announcement that former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe will not face criminal charges to generate outrage and push for President Donald Trump to pardon his longtime adviser Roger Stone.

Prosecutors announced that they are not pursuing criminal charges against McCabe in a letter on February 14. The investigation began in 2018 after a referral from the Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who alleged that McCabe misled investigators about a media leak. The new announcement from prosecutors indicates that the case against McCabe has been closed.

Right-wing media have called for months for Trump to pardon his longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who was convicted in federal court on seven charges, including lying to Congress and witness tampering. In particular, right-wing media have ramped up calls for Trump to pardon Stone as the Department of Justice and Stone’s attorneys submitted their recommendations to the court for his sentencing, which will be on February 20. Trump has already granted clemency or pardons to controversial right-wing figures during his term, including Joe Arpaio and Dinesh D’Souza, and the president said on February 12 that he won’t rule out a pardon for Stone. 

With the announcement that McCabe will not face criminal charges, right-wing media immediately used it as an opportunity to inaccurately compare him to Stone and to say that Trump needs to pardon Stone. In many cases, they also called for Trump to pardon former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017.

Claiming that DOJ’s treatment of these cases is hypocritical is a bad-faith argument being used to downplay Stone’s crimes and create faux outrage — common tactics of right-wing media. Here are some of the most egregious examples:

  • Human Events publisher Will Chamberlain
  • Human Events Managing Editor Ian Miles Cheong
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk
  • Turning Point Action’s Ryan Fournier
  • Conservative radio host Buck Sexton
  • Newsmax TV host John Cardillo
  • Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee
  • One America News Network host Liz Wheeler
  • Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist and OANN host Jack Posobiec

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell