Facebook removed a fast-growing pro-Trump group after political violence was said to have been promoted by members. The same day, eight more groups were created mimicking the original.
On Nov. 5, Facebook banned a roughly day-old group named “StoptheSteal” because of reports of the group promoting political violence. The group’s name is based on a popular slogan among those who believe that political operatives are meddling with the election in order to shift favor to presidential candidate Joe Biden. The same day that Facebook banned the group, eight more appeared with member amounts of over 1,000.
“We have to avoid being in the open as much as possible. Our goal should be to fly under the radar. If this group has any chance of surviving, we have to be smarter about what we say and how we operate,” reads an announcement in the largest group, which has 33,600 members.
Many of the new groups have posts doubting whether they will be allowed to continue, with some preparing to go private in order to stay online. The groups have experienced extremely fast growth in a very short amount of time, including the largest, which gained thousands of members in a few hours multiple times.
The original “StoptheSteal” group was started by Women for America 1st, a pro-Trump women’s group, according to Reuters.
Wow.@Facebook just shut down the @america1stwomen #StoptheSteal group— Amy Kremer (@AmyKremer) November 5, 2020
The group wasn’t even 24 hours old and had over 350K members.
The left is trying to steal an election and Social media is complicit.
This is outrageous! pic.twitter.com/S44HisXvpM
The Center for Countering Digital Hate called for the original group to be banned on the morning of Nov. 5, when the group had just under 300,000 members. Later that day, the group was banned at a reported member count of over 360,000.
The Stop the Steal Facebook group contains multiple calls for violence at vote counts.— Center for Countering Digital Hate (@CCDHate) November 5, 2020
One recent post reads "Time to clean the guns, time to hit the streets."
Another says "It's time. We must resort to violence if we have to." pic.twitter.com/kaE2WYAmTk
In addition to banning the page, Facebook banned the hashtags #stopthesteal and #sharpiegate for going against community guidelines. “Sharpiegate” is a conspiracy theory that Trump supporters were handed sharpies to sign their ballots with, which supposedly made them invalid. TikTok went on to ban #hsarpiegate as well, along with #RiggedElection.
While the new groups seem to be focused on connecting those concerned about election integrity, they may still suffer the consequences of the original group. One of the pop-up groups, also named Stop The Steal, had a member post a meme of a monkey holding a handgun, captioning the photo with “Bring it.”