Facebook shuts down pro-Trump 'Stop the Steal' group after 350,000 members call for violence

FACEBOOK has shut down a rapidly growing 'Stop the Steal' group after 350,000 members call for violence to avenge President Donald Trump.

The pro-Trump page called for "boots on the ground to protect the integrity of the vote" as it collected 1,000 new members every ten seconds.

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Supporters were attempting to rally together mass protests this Saturday claiming: "President Trump needs us now more than ever."

Before shutting the group down, the social media giant said: "The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members."

The "Stop the Steal" group was set up by Women for America First, who also set up protests against Covid-19 and supported Trump during his impeachment hearing.

However, group backers hit back, claiming they were organizing peaceful protests, had been working hard to police the comments and that Facebook had given no warning.

Chris Barron, a spokesman for the group, said political opponents were also organizing protests but were not banned.

"If Facebook wants to become the arbiter of truth then they've got a lot of work to do," Barron said.

Facebook said the group's removal was in line with "exceptional measures" amid "heightened tension."

The president took to center stage at the White House yesterday, unleashing a torrid of claims of "illegal votes" as "dangerous" and "not factual".

Trump alleged “tremendous corruption” surrounding mail-in ballots in a number of battleground states which have yet to be called.

And with his opponent on the cusp of winning the election, leading Republicans have denounced their party's candidate.

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum called Trump’s claims “not factual”, “dangerous' and “incendiary.”

He told CNN: “No Republican-elected official is going to stand behind that statement. I mean none of them will.”

Santorum, who served as a senator representing Pennsylvania, added that the President’s remarks were “not something anything elected official should say.”

Measures Facebook introduced on Thursday include warning users results are not final as well as limiting how many people are shown live video about the election, or posts that the company's algorithms believe contain political misinformation.

Trump supporters and election challengers have stormed voting stations in Arizona and Michigan, resulting in one being forced to close.

The protesters – some carrying guns – screamed "stop the steal" and "stop the count" as Democrat Joe Biden closed in on victory in the too-close-to-call race to the White House.

MAGA supporters protesting the results banged on glass doors at the Maricopa County Elections Department office in Phoenix, Arizona.

When the voting station was reportedly forced to close to the public, Joe Biden was ahead in the state by roughly 70,000 votes.

A tweet from Maricopa's elections department said: "Staff will continue our job, which is to administer elections in the second largest voting jurisdiction in the county.

"We will release results again tonight as planned. We thank the (sheriff's office) for doing their job, so we can do ours."

On Wednesday, Trump fans screamed "stop the vote" while storming a counting site in Detroit on Wednesday.

For months, Trump allies have been preparing for the chance that the president lost his re-election bid.

As tallies increasingly improve the odds for Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and as U.S. broadcasters and other major media outlets brush off Trump's claims of victory, the president and his supporters have taken to social media to try to turn the narrative around, floating conspiratorial theories using the hashtag #StopTheSteal.

But social media companies have been signaling less patience with disinformation and calls for violence.

Eleven of the president's 32 tweets since Election Day on Tuesday have been placed behind a warning label saying they were disputed, prompting him to use email and other media to voice his claims, researchers said.

On Thursday, Snap Inc's Snapchat removed a video from Trump's account in which Biden said he has an extensive "voter fraud organization."

Biden's statement came during an interview in which he was discussing his team fighting voter suppression efforts, and Snap determined that Trump's use out of context violated its policy against undermining the integrity of civic processes.

Trump campaign social media manager Ryann McEnany decried Snap's action in a tweet, saying in capital letters: "Why won't they let the American people see this!?"

Twitter on Thursday suspended an account used by former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon after he recorded a video in which he called for beheading FBI Director Christopher Wray as well as government infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci for being disloyal to Trump.

A Twitter spokesman cited company policy against glorifying violence. Other services also removed the video on similar grounds.

But the takedowns and warnings are something Trump supporters appear prepared for. Before Facebook deleted "Stop the Steal," organizers directed members to an email sign-up page "in the event that social media censors this group."

The group's membership surged because seven prominent conservatives promoted it to their hundreds of thousands of followers, according to Renee DiResta, a researcher involved in the anti-misinformation Election Integrity Partnership.

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