'Reopen' Facebook Groups Never Shut Down. Now They're Cesspools Of Conspiracies. - 2020-06-29
At the height of nationwide protests over coronavirus lockdowns, Facebook groups with names like Reopen Alabama and Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine collectively accumulated hundreds of thousands of members and widespread mainstream media coverage as followers of those groups took to the streets to protest social distancing requirements.
Many of the lockdowns they protested have now been lifted — but the groups live on and have quickly refashioned into hubs for spreading conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination misinformation. They also aim intense vitriol at the anti-racism demonstrations that have followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month while sharing messages from the pro-Donald Trump QAnon conspiracy movement.
A review of these public and private Facebook groups by HuffPost and First Draft, an organization that monitors online misinformation, found that anti-lockdown groups have shifted their content over recent months to remain active communities. Although Facebook shut down some of the largest groups in recent months for violating its policies, dozens are still strewn across its platform, where they have become soapboxes for people who want to share dangerous falsehoods.