Facebook says it's removing false claims that antifa arsonists started the Oregon wildfires

Facebook says it's removing false claims that antifa arsonists started the Oregon wildfires

September 13, 2020
  • A Facebook spokesman said Saturday evening the company will remove false claims circulating on its platform about extremists setting fires in Oregon.
  • The false rumors have alleged that members of the far-left antifa movement, or the far-right Proud Boys group, have been starting the deadly wildfires that have forced tens of thousands to evacuate.
  • Multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies have said they were inundated with inquiries about the false claims, and those inquiries have been using up valuable resources needed to respond to true emergencies.
  • Facebook said their decision to remove the false claims was based on the confirmation from law enforcement agencies that the rumors have diverted their resources.
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Facebook announced Saturday evening it would remove false claims that Oregon's wildfires were caused by far-left anti-fascist arsonists.

Those false claims have resulted in local sheriff's departments being inundated with questions about the inaccurate rumors — and those inquiries have been draining their resources and hampering efforts to respond to the wildfires and people who need help.

"We are removing false claims that the wildfires in Oregon were started by certain groups," Facebook spokesman Andy Stone tweeted Saturday. "This is based on confirmation from law enforcement that these rumors are forcing local fire and police agencies to divert resources from fighting the fires and protecting the public."

He continued: "This is consistent with our past efforts to remove content that could lead to imminent harm given the possible risk to human life as the fire rages on."

Local Oregon authorities — such as the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the Medford Police Department and the Molalla Police Department — have published social media posts in recent days pleading with residents not to spread false information, and only to trust official sources.

"Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires," the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "THIS IS NOT TRUE! Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumor and it is causing problems."

A number of law enforcement agencies have said the rumors of politically motivated arsonists are false, and said the flood of misinformation is straining resources on local fire and police departments.

The FBI's Portland bureau tweeted Friday that the agency had investigated several reports of extremist-related arsons and determined they were untrue.

The Medford Police Department even flagged a fake post that purported to be from authorities declaring the arrest of five arsonists connected with the far-right Proud Boys. The police department said the post was untrue and false, and that no antifa or Proud Boys members have been arrested for arsons in the area.

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