‘Stop the Steal’ Groups Are Still Thriving on Facebook
Despite recent purges, two ‘Stop the Steal’ Facebook groups count nearly 100,000 users
Two large Facebook groups are actively promoting “Stop the Steal” propaganda, weeks after the platform banned similar groups for attempting to delegitimize the election process and potentially inciting physical violence. Together, the groups count nearly 100,000 people among their members. These members regularly share misinformation about election fraud, echoing far-right conspiracy theories that falsely assert the race was stolen from President Trump.
Both groups are facets of the Stop the Steal movement, a Republican-funded disinformation campaign that culminated in dozens of rallies last weekend in states where Trump has baselessly demanded a recount. Numerous Stop the Steal groups and pages appeared on Facebook this month after Joe Biden became the clear presidential front-runner. CNN traced the slogan to a 2016 political action committee founded by Trump ally Roger Stone, who at the time accused Republicans of trying to steal the nomination from Trump. The movement went mostly dormant but was revived this month by former Tea Party organizer Amy Kremer, creator of the conservative nonprofit Women for America First, and other far-right influencers.
That two popular Stop the Steal groups survived Facebook’s recent purge is notable. Facebook declined to comment on the record about its decision to not remove these two groups.
One of the groups is public, meaning any Facebook user can join, and has nearly 85,000 members. The other, a private group, has more than 12,000 members and was originally called “Hardcore Trump Nation” but changed its name to “Stop the Steal” on November 5. (An admin of the public group is now polling members as to whether the community should become private, “so trolls can not troll.”)
An admin of the public group is now polling members as to whether the community should become private, “so trolls can not troll.”
Over the past few days, both communities have latched on to the unfounded claim that Dominion voting machines deleted millions of votes for Trump — a conspiracy theory based on an anonymous forum post, then propagated by the One America News Network and amplified by Trump on Facebook and Twitter.
“I just heard on one America news [sic] that the Dominion voting machine change [sic] up to 450,000 votes and deleted two and a half million votes for Donald Trump that’s not a glitch that’s coordinated election fraud and that’s not including everything else that went on,” wrote a Facebook user from Texas.
These voting machine claims were repeatedly debunked by former U.S. cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs, whose firing Trump announced on Twitter on Tuesday.
It’s unclear why Facebook has not removed these groups when the company previously found identical pages to be in violation of its policies around elections and voting. In recent weeks, the platform has taken a backseat to alternative social media upstarts Parler, MeWe, and Rumble, which welcomed millions of new users following Facebook’s moderation of Stop the Steal groups.
However, lawmakers continue to scrutinize Facebook for its moderation practices during the 2020 election, and in a virtual testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Mark Zuckerberg said, “From what we’ve seen so far, our systems worked well.”