Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A burned car is seen by the Oak Park Motel east of Salem, Oregon on September 13, 2020. Photo: Rob Schumacher / Pool / AFP via Getty Images

Conspiracy theories about the origin of fires in Oregon are still spreading through private Facebook groups days after the social media giant announced it would remove the false claims, according to research from the German Marshall Fund of the United States shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: Facebook's efforts to control misinformation on its vast platform continue to lag behind the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories about life-and-death crises, and researchers are urging earlier and stronger action, especially as the election gets closer and the coronavirus continues to rage in the country.

Context: Rumors on Facebook and Twitter blaming the Oregon wildfires on "Antifa" and Black Lives Matter groups started circulating on Sept. 8 and proliferated for days, diverting law enforcement personnel and resources even as firefighters struggled to put out the blazes.

  • Portland news channel KGW8 reported that 911 dispatchers were inundated with calls about antifascists starting the fires.
  • The FBI sought to correct the rumors on Friday, Sept. 11. Facebook announced it would take posts down on Saturday, Sept. 12, but had already started applying warning labels and reducing distribution of the posts on Sept. 10.

By the numbers: Researchers from the German Marshall Fund have been tracking 33 "Re-Open" groups on Facebook, some with up to 171,000 members, originally started to protest stay-at-home orders for the coronavirus crisis. The groups have become "vectors" for conspiracy theories, the German Marshall Fund's Karen Kornbluh told Axios.

  • Posts with rumors that antifascist groups started the fires were present in 11 of 33 of the groups before Facebook announced it would remove the content, Kornbluh said. The content remains available and is still spreading, according to the German Marshall Fund's research and screenshots seen by Axios.
  • The researchers estimate that the rate at which the content is being viewed and interacted has not slowed down since Facebook's Sept. 12 announcement.
  • Facebook needs a "circuit breaker" for these types of viral moments, Kornbluh said. "There needs to be an approach focused on risk of widespread harm, as opposed to imminent harm," she said.

What they're saying: "We use technology to remove content even in private groups by training our systems to identify and take down posts that include violating key words, images and videos. This doesn’t catch everything, but our teams are working to improve the technology," Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois tweeted.

Meanwhile, a Twitter spokesperson said the service was "taking action to reduce the visibility" of tweets containing fire-related misinformation.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with information from Twitter.

Go deeper

Dec 9, 2020 - Technology

The search for misinformation's measure

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Facebook and other big online platforms insist they're removing more and more misinformation. But they can't say whether they're actually stemming the tide of lies, and neither can we, because the deluge turns out to be impossible to define or measure.

Why it matters: The tech companies mostly won't share data that would let researchers better track the scale, spread and impact of misinformation. So the riddle remains unsolved, and the platforms can't be held accountable.

Ranking the 5 big suits against Google and Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook stands to lose the most, but Google is more likely to lose: That's the consensus of experts Axios asked to rank the threats the two tech giants face as five separate major antitrust lawsuits bear down on them.

Why it matters: A loss for Facebook or Google in any of the cases could force deep changes in how Silicon Valley does business — and even lead to a court-ordered breakup.

Jun 29, 2020 - Technology

Facebook boycott battle goes global

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Madison Avenue boycott against Facebook has quickly grown into a worldwide movement against the content moderation policies of social media giants.

Why it matters: The initial Facebook boycott among advertisers, prompted by Facebook's refusal to fact-check a post by President Trump, has hit a nerve amongst people outside of the marketing community, who think boycotting social media advertising altogether could help to create a healthier internet.