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Newsday: Rice digs for answers on Facebook’s role in spreading extremism

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Washington, February 22, 2021 | comments

With memories of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol still raw, Rep. Kathleen Rice sent a letter Monday to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg asking for information about the social network’s role in disseminating disinformation to veterans and service members that contributed to their embrace of extremist movements and philosophies.

"We know that veterans and military service members are being targeted daily online by disinformation campaigns and dangerous conspiracy theories. We must do more to protect them," Rice said in a statement. "The data we are requesting from Facebook will help Congress better understand the nature and scope of this urgent issue and allow us to take concerted and sustained actions to stop the extremist violence that is stemming from it."

In the letter obtained by The Point, Rice cited an NPR analysis that found that nearly 20% of those charged so far in the attack were former or current members of the U.S. military. Veterans are targeted, Rice wrote, "because they have a high propensity to be politically engaged and carry significant credibility and influence in their communities, both online and offline, especially on issues related to patriotism, national security, defense and public service."

Rice, who was joined on the letter by veterans’ affairs committee chairman Mark Takano and six colleagues, asked for information about accounts associated with veterans or service members that were targeted by extremist groups involved in the Capitol attack and whether Facebook has engaged with veterans service organizations about disinformation that targeted veterans, among other issues.

Rice is not the first member of Congress to express concern about the presence and influence of extremist ideology on Facebook. But her letter will brighten the glare of a discomforting spotlight that is getting brighter by the moment.

Newsday: Rice digs for answers on Facebook’s role in spreading extremism
—Michael Dobie 
@mwdobie

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