Facebook has said it had taken down a rapidly growing group where several supporters of US President Donald Trump posted violent rhetoric and baseless claims that Democrats were stealing the election.
On Thursday afternoon, the “Stop the Steal” group, which called for “boots on the ground to protect the integrity of the vote,” was adding 1,000 new members every 10 minutes and had climbed to 365,000 members in one moment.
“The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.
She said the move was in line with this “exceptional measures” Facebook was shooting during “this period of heightened tension.”
The band’s backers decried the deletion, saying they were organizing peaceful protests, that they had been working hard to police the comments, which Facebook had contributed then no advance warning. Chris Barron, a spokesman for the group, said those on the left side of the political spectrum were also voicing concerns over the election being stolen and coordinating for protests but didn’t face the very same problems.
“If Facebook wants to become the arbiter of truth then they’ve got a lot of work to do,” Barron said. In any situation, “the election is over, so there’s no election disinformation to be shared.”
An overview of a few of remarks posted to the group before its deletion found no direct calls for violence, but its organizing premise – which Republican votes are being “nullified” by Democrats – has no foundation in fact. For months, Trump and Republican allies were laying the groundwork to throw doubt on the integrity of the US election in the event the president dropped his re-election bid.
As election returns show a brightening film for Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and as US broadcasters and other major media outlets continue to sweep off Trump’s premature promises of victory, the president and his supporters have taken to societal networking to try to turn the story about, floating conspiratorial theories employing the hashtag #StopTheSteal.
But social media companies have been signalling less patience for election-related disinformation, something “Stop the Steal” group appears to have prepared for. Earlier Facebook deleted it, the team’s organizers directed new members into a email sign-up page “in the event that social media censors this group.”
Participants appeared to be dispersing either to smaller lookalike classes or into more obscure social networking services.
Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human rights, praised the team’s removal.
The deletion highlights the ongoing concern over Facbook’s classes, which generally work as community forums for shared interests but which watchdog associations and social networking researchers have argued can be closed loops for hyper-partisan misinformation.
“Facebook has been enabling and amplifying the infrastructure that’s now being used to attack our democratic process,” said Arisha Hatch, executive director of the Color of Change PAC, the political action committee of one of the nation’s largest online racial justice classes.
Facebook, which typically urges groups to customers that they may want to join based on their activity on the site, last week suspended these recommendations for political groups and new groups around the election.
The now-removed “Stop the Steal” set was run by the Trump action group Women for America First. The non-profit coordinated protests against coronavirus restrictions and supported Trump during his impeachment hearing.
Barron said that the group’s assignment goes on, noting that Amy and Kylie Kremer, Women for America First’s mother-daughter co-founders, would continue organizing demonstrations.
“Amy and Kylie were at a peaceful protest in Atlanta today,” he said.
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Jonathan Landay. Editing by Steve Orlofsky.
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