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Facebook shuts down pro-Trump group organizing rallies against ‘stolen’ election

Social media giant bars ‘Stop the Steal’ page over concerns it was being used to delegitimize voting process and issue ‘worrying’ calls for violence

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, October 28, 2020, in Washington (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, October 28, 2020, in Washington (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO, California — Facebook on Thursday shut down a pro-Trump group organizing protests against vote-counting, saying it was being used to delegitimize the election process and included “worrying” calls for violence.

The group, called “Stop the Steal,” was just days old but had topped 300,000 members by the time it was removed for violating Facebook policies.

The social network acted as ballot counting continues in battleground states two days after Tuesday’s vote, with Democrat Joe Biden confident of capturing the presidency from incumbent Donald Trump.

“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 response to an AFP inquiry.

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

Trump supporter Charles Littleton, center, argues with Biden supporter Angelo Austin, right, as Trump supporters protest election results outside the central counting board in Detroit, Michigan, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP/David Goldman)

“Stop the Steal” was calling for “boots on the ground” to protect what it called the “integrity” of the vote, according to the Washington Post, and encouraging donations to help send supporters to battleground states such as Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Some of the commentary warned of being “on the verge of civil war” and asked supporters how they would go about “overthrowing the government,” the Post reported.

Since Election Day, the president has repeatedly fired off tweets calling for ballot counting to be stopped, and contended without proof there has been voter fraud.

Twitter masked his inflammatory posts with notices telling people the claims are misleading.

Facebook and Twitter have been scrambling to prevent their platforms from being used to spread false claims regarding the integrity of voting or ballot counting.

The platforms have pledged stepped-up scrutiny of false election information, including premature claims of victory, seeking to avoid a repeat of 2016 manipulation activities.

Separately, Facebook said it had implemented its policy banning political ads after the close of polls.

A Facebook spokesperson said the goal was “reducing the chance for confusion or abuse” and that the ban will likely last about a week.

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