Facebook deleting posts linking activist groups to Oregon fires


A mobile home resident searches through remains after a wildfire destroyed several homes in a mobile home park  in Estacada, Oregon.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook says it will remove posts that falsely claim deadly wildfires in Oregon were deliberately started by arsonists for both far-right and far-left groups. The move comes as the FBI says its investigations have found the claims to be unsubstantiated.

Facebook, which typically places labels on posts that contain misinformation, said Saturday it’s removing posts “that could lead to imminent harm given the possible risk to human life as the fires rage on.” The social media giant decided on the stricter approach after “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,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a Twitter post.

More than 40,000 people have been forced to leave their homes as fires burned more than 1 million acres in Oregon last week, and more than 500,000 people are under an evacuation order.

Third-party fact checker Politifact on Thursday debunked posts that blamed Antifa for starting the fires, calling out a tweet by a former congressional candidate that falsely claimed six arsonists connected to the far-left group were in custody for starting a fire at a pallet company. Screenshots of the post by Paul Romero were shared dozens of times on Facebook, Politfact wrote.

The fact checker called Romero’s tweet “wrong” and said there’s “no evidence” left-wing activists were to blame for starting the fires burning in California and Oregon.

The FBI field office in Portland, Oregon, tweeted Friday that “reports that extremists are setting wildfires in Oregon are untrue” and urged people to stop the spread of misinformation by sharing information only from trusted sources.

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