On Tuesday, voters in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Pennsylvania went to the polls to cast ballots a heated primary races. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won all but one state, with Bernie Sanders taking Rhode Island.
In the wake of the results, an all-too-familiar pattern was again revealed, with Sanders supporters pointing to a possible conspiracy that may have contributed to Clinton’s gains.
Monday night, Facebook temporarily suspended six pro-Sanders groups, many of which had tens of thousands of followers. Naturally, many suspected foul play on behalf of Clinton supporters, who could have taken advantage of Facebook’s spam policies.
Some accused Clinton supporters of posting pornography in Bernie groups in an effort to get those groups banned, but, as Matt Baume points out at The Stranger, "That doesn’t completely make sense – if someone is posting porn in groups, surely it’s the bad-acting users who would get banned, not the group, right?"
Facebook has offered its own explanation, attributing the outages to a technical glitch.
"A number of groups were inaccessible for a brief period after one of our automated policies was applied incorrectly," the company told technology site Recode. "We corrected the problem within hours and are working to improve our tools."
An administrator for the group The People for Bernie Sanders 2016 chimed in.
"We’re aware many of the pro Bernie groups were removed from Facebook," the group’s page read. "They’re back. It was a Facebook database error, not a conspiracy or attack."
Lending credence to the explanation is the fact that Sanders groups weren’t the only ones affected. Five pages supporting Filipino presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte were also suspended, affecting roughly 3 million people, according to Raw Story.
"All of the groups are back up and it wasn’t just Bernie groups," wrote Aidan King, founder of the Sanders for President group. "Our supporters are just more vocal so the Internet blew up with 'Bernie groups being shut down' rather than 'Facebook groups are being shut down.'"
Still, it didn’t help matters that the error coincided with reports that a pro-Clinton super PAC known as Correct the Record spent nearly $1 million on social media campaigning. The organization’s strategy was kept intentionally vague, explaining its agenda with phrases like: "serve as a resource for supporters looking for positive content and push-back to share with their online progressive communities."