Facebook says it’s taking “exceptional measures” to control the influence of pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” groups on its platform, but so far the results appear to be mixed. The groups represent a growing right-wing movement on social media to stop the vote count in the presidential election.
On Thursday, Facebook banned a group called Stop the Steal after some of the group’s more than 300,000 members had posted calls for violence. The group gained these hundreds of thousands of members within 48 hours. According to Mother Jones, the group has ties to Republican operatives.
“In line with the exceptional measure that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events,” a company spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. “The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”
Indeed, the original “Stop the Steal” group is gone, but numerous other groups have popped up in its place.
One of these new groups, called “StopTheSteal” (as opposed to “Stop the Steal”) grew from just 86 members to more than a thousand in about 45 minutes, notes the Tech Transparency Project.
Initially, I was able to easily start a new group using a variant of “STOP THE STEAL” with a test account.
However, Facebook is presumably using its natural-language AI systems to detect any language about organizing real-world events meant to obstruct vote counting. Within 15 minutes, the test account I used to start my Stop the Steal group was suspended.
The concern about these Facebook groups was heightened Wednesday when one group called Stand Up Michigan to Unlock Michigan called on its 79,000 members to “be a presence” at Detroit’s TCF Center, where ballot counts were in progress, NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins report. Online video showed a crowd of people gathered inside the facility, some of them banging on the glass panel that separated them from election workers.
The presidential election remains unsettled. Votes are still being counted in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—states that will prove decisive in the race. At this late stage, it’s crucial that Facebook prevent itself from being used as a platform for organized efforts to obstruct the vote counting.