Facebook pulled the plug on the burgeoning Stop the Steal group Thursday over baseless election corruption claims and “worrying calls for violence,” said a statement from the social media company.
Facebook also instituted other restrictions on its platform that it typically reserves for volatile, “at-risk” nations, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Stop the Steal was being used to organize nationwide protests against voting results, citing unfounded conspiracy theories that the process was corrupted and Democrats were trying to steal the election.
“Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes,” said a blurb about the group in its Facebook profile. “It’s up to us, the American people, to fight and to put a stop to it.”
Some of the organizing efforts targeted centers where ballot counting was still underway, and many of the messages encouraged violence.
The group was removed because members were “organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement.
The decision was made “in line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension because the group was creating real-world events,” he added. However, pages promoting rallies that Stop the Steal had organized had been left up.
Facebook initially attempted to police the group, by either taking down or adding alerts to false content, but it was difficult to keep pace with the messages, noted The New York Times.
Stop the Steal, which was launched Wednesday afternoon, had attracted more than 360,000 members before Facebook removed it midday Thursday for violating the platform’s rules. It was one of the fastest-growing groups in Facebook history, according to the Times.
The company is now also restricting the spread of live video on its platforms and will slow the rapid increase of content that Facebook’s algorithms deem as potential misinformation, the Journal reported. The steps are similar to emergency measures that the company has put in place in what it calls “at-risk countries,” such as Myanmar, a source told the newspaper.
The protests so far have been largely peaceful, though intimidating.
Armed protesters, however, targeted a ballot-counting center Wednesday night in Maricopa County, one of the areas in too-close-to-call Arizona, and demanded the vote tallies be stopped.
Bizarrely, some of the protesters battling Democratic vote tallies have been shouting both “Stop the vote” and the contradictory “Count the votes” at protests.
A pro-Trump organization called Women for America First created the Stop the Steal group, according to its Facebook profile.
One of the co-founders of Women for America First is Jennifer Lawrence, who previously worked as communications director for We Build the Wall Inc., according to her Facebook profile. The group is the target of fraud charges after allegedly siphoning off donations that were supposed to be used to privately fund a portion of Trump’s southern border wall.
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