Facebook Quietly Removes Two of the Biggest Remaining ‘Stop the Steal’ Groups

The shutdowns come a month after purging similar groups thriving on the platform

A supporter of President Trump holds a sign at a Stop the Steal rally in front of the Georgia state capitol building on November 28, 2020, in Atlanta. Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

After OneZero reported earlier this month that two “Stop the Steal” Facebook groups remained on the platform despite a purge of similar groups, the company quietly removed both of the large communities for unstated reasons.

On November 19, OneZero observed activity in two Facebook groups named for the Stop the Steal movement, a Republican-funded disinformation campaign falsely claiming the presidential election was stolen from President Trump. Together, the groups counted nearly 100,000 people among their members and behaved as an echo chamber for conspiracy theories, such as the thoroughly debunked allegation that Dominion voting machines were manipulated to change votes for Trump to votes for Joe Biden. One of the groups, which had more than 12,000 members, was private so as to avoid moderation. At the time of OneZero’s reporting, the other group, which remained public, was debating whether or not to go private.

It’s unclear why Facebook permitted these groups to exist after banning another Stop the Steal group of more than 300,000 members on November 5. Facebook said the original Stop the Steal group was in violation of its policies against election delegitimization and that it was potentially inciting physical violence.

After OneZero alerted Facebook about the existence of these other Stop the Steal groups, the company declined to comment on the record about why it had decided to leave them up. At some point over the past week, though, Facebook went ahead and took them down.

The veiled processes behind Facebook’s moderation efforts have long frustrated civil liberties advocates, academics studying misinformation, and internet watchdog groups. In early November, internal documents related to Facebook’s moderation of voter suppression and misinformation were leaked to Vice News, revealing a confusing set of qualifiers for what does and does not count as a violation. Facebook’s role in facilitating election turmoil and, in some cases, acts of violence, is difficult to quantify but has been consistently documented by journalists over the past two years. On November 17, however, when questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee about Facebook’s accountability, Mark Zuckerberg said he believed the platform’s systems for addressing misinformation “worked well.”

OneZero contacted Facebook for comment on the removal of these groups but did not immediately hear back.

Read OneZero’s original report here:

Staff writer at OneZero covering social platforms, internet communities, and the spread of misinformation online. Previously: VICE

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