The Carter Center Releases ‘The Big Lie and Big Tech’

 New Report Looks at Misinformation Repeat Offenders on Facebook during the 2020 Election Cycle

ATLANTA (Oct. 6, 2021) — The Carter Center today published “The Big Lie and Big Tech,” a new report that details the role played by “repeat offenders”—media known to repeatedly publish false and misleading information—in spreading election fraud narratives in online echo chambers during the 2020 election.

The Carter Center report found that while myriad forces—politicians, influencers, hyper-partisan media, and citizens—coalesced to advance The Big Lie, known repeat offenders provided critical connective tissue in the spread of misinformation on social media. They often inserted out-of-context information into broader narrative frames, helping to amplify misinformation faster than it could be fact-checked.

“This week’s revelations by the Facebook whistleblower once again raise important questions about the role that tech companies play in shaping worldviews,” said David Carroll, director of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program. “The online evolution of The Big Lie wasn’t an aberration caused by specific actors or circumstances. Social media companies need to take steps to repel efforts to undermine democracy.”

The Carter Center’s repeat offender list came from NewsGuard, a nonpartisan organization that tracks articles that have been fact-checked and debunked. The Center analyzed 2.93 million posts in 883 Facebook groups engaged in partisan political discourse and found repeat-offender content in 76% of all groups—and in 97% of right-leaning groups—between Aug. 17, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021.

In right-leaning Facebook groups, one of every five articles came from repeat-offender sources. That percentage jumped to one in four between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Ten of the top 15 media sources that saw the highest spikes in appearances in right-leaning groups were known misinformation repeat offenders. Notably, the Center found a 540% increase in articles from NewsMax, a 350% increase in links from OANN, and a 210% increase in content published by InfoWars. 

The Carter Center found that terms associated with election fraud, such as “switched,” “flipped,” and “shredded,” appeared 33, 21, and 14 times more often in repeat-offender headlines than in headlines from trustworthy media sources. Words highly correlated with ballots in these headlines were “counterfeit,” “discarded,” and “shredded,” while key terms associated with “fraud” were “extensive,” “occurred,” and “systemic.”

The 20 most frequently shared repeat-offender links associated with voter fraud in right-leaning groups were shared 283,011 times, with a combined possible reach of 31.2 million Facebook users. The link associated with fraud shared most often across right-leaning groups was published by The Marshall Report, a domain associated with QAnon conspiracies. The article spuriously connected Sidney Powell’s efforts to substantiate voter fraud to an alleged clandestine military operation to expose a deep state coverup. The link was shared more than 30,000 times to over 2 million Facebook users.   

The Carter Center’s report highlights the inadequacy of existing social media policies and interventions in addressing misinformation repeat offenders and safeguarding elections. It also includes recommendations to platforms to help blunt the impact of election-related misinformation, including: 

  • Placing warning labels on posts containing repeat-offender links.
  • Algorithmically downranking the appearance of repeat-offender links.
  • Investing resources to expand professional fact-checking capacity, especially for content that could undermine election integrity.
  • Establishing a shared database of repeat offenders accessible to all social media companies to facilitate cross-platform interventions.

“Social media companies aren’t solely responsible for what happened during the 2020 election, but it is hard to understate the authority Big Tech leaders have over content that appears on their platforms,” said Michael Baldassaro, senior advisor to the Carter Center’s Digital Threats Project and the report’s lead researcher. “They can—and should—enact reforms well in advance of future elections to mitigate threats to election integrity.”

Katie Harbath, a former public policy director at Facebook and a consultant to The Carter Center on this report, agreed.

“While some good work has been done by social media companies,” she said, “much more needed—especially around repeat offenders. With so many elections coming up between now and 2024, time is of the essence to make these necessary changes.”


Report: The Big Lie and Big Tech: Misinformation Repeat Offenders and Social Media in the 2020 U.S. Election (PDF)

Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,

The Carter Center

Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top