Facebook Removes Public Group Stop the Steal 2020 for ‘Delegitimization of the Election Process’

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The fight against election-related misinformation continued for Facebook Thursday, as the social network took down a public group, Stop the Steal 2020, that had attracted over 300,000 members in just two days.

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A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the action, saying, “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. The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”

The group was being used to organize protests in states where ballots were still being counted, and it was also littered with calls for violence and inaccurate claims about the ballot counting process.

Aaron Mak of Slate reported that the group topped 360,000 members, while Ali Breland of Mother Jones reported that it was tied to Republican operatives including Liberty Lab, which provides digital services to conservative clients, and Women for America First, a nonprofit co-founded and led by former Tea Party activist Amy Kremer.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate shared screenshots from the group on Twitter, with calls for violence such as, “Time to clean the guns, time to hit the streets,” and, “It’s time. We must resort to violence if we have to.”

The social network had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of this post, but it appears to also have blocked the #StopTheSteal hashtag, as well as #SharpieGate, which refers to a since-debunked conspiracy theory claiming that the Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Ga.—one of the states where a winner has not yet been declared—said the use of Sharpies would make ballots invalid.

Clicking on either of those hashtags brings up a message from Facebook saying that posts with those hashtags are temporarily hidden due to violating its community standards.

However, Taylor Hatmaker and Sarah Perez of TechCrunch pointed out that hashtags with similar intentions were still functional on the platform, including #ElectionFraud, #ElectionMeddling, #Rigged and #RiggedElection.

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