Facebook bans pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" group after its members call for violence
A Facebook group with the goal of spreading election misinformation and inciting violence had grown to over 350,000 members on Thursday. Now, Facebook has shut it down.
Supporters of President Donald Trump launched the "Stop the Steal" group this week to organize protests against the presidential election, which has yet to be called as of midday Friday. Some members called for violence, and many spread misinformation, including baseless claims that Democrats are trying to "steal" the election.
A Facebook spokesperson said the platform was also concerned because the group was organizing in-person events.
"In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group 'Stop the Steal,' which was creating real-world events," Facebook said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group."
While Facebook removed the original group, countless localized alternatives have surfaced around the country, easily searchable on the platform, and gained thousands of followers.
Some members have successfully organized protests at vote-counting centers in places like Pennsylvania and Arizona, where ballot-tallying is ongoing.
Despite no indication that votes are not being counted, Trump supporters gathered outside Phoenix City Hall Thursday to "demand every vote be counted." Meanwhile, pro-Trump protesters in Philadelphia demanded officials "stop the count," apparently in order to prevent further votes counted in Biden's favor.
Facebook told AP that it is continuing to monitor activity that violates its rules and will take action against groups that do.
The groups have become a hub of misinformation, with members sharing videos and testimonials asserting conspiracy theories surrounding voter fraud in a number of states, ultimately spreading to other platforms including Twitter and Youtube. They are just the latest problem for Facebook, which has a long history of allowing hate speech on its platform.
Several groups appear to be calling for a civil war, inciting violence against journalists and demanding the redo the election entirely.
Ahead of the group's formation, the president himself tweeted baseless claims that Democrats "are trying to STEAL the election." Mr. Trump has since repeated false assertions in remarks from the White House and on Twitter.
Mr. Trump took to Twitter Thursday night claiming he would easily win the election with "legal" votes cast, and claimed observers were not allowed to do their job. Twitter flagged the post for being misleading.
Election officials and international observers have said there is currently no evidence of voter fraud.
Ballot-counting rooms are currently hosting live streams, available to the public, and results are stored in a server that is not connected to the internet and therefore not susceptible to hacking, CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers reports. These rooms have bipartisan designated workers to ensure all votes are properly counted.
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