Facebook removes pro-Trump group for false election claims and some members calling for violence

FILE PHOTO: Counter-protesters, organized by Make the Road Action Nevada and PLAN Action, chant during a “Stop the Steal” protest by supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump at the Clark County Election Center in North Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc <FB.O> on Thursday said it had taken down a rapidly growing group where supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump posted misinformation, violent rhetoric and organized protests against the baseless claim that Democrats were stealing the election. The group had ballooned to more than 365,000 members in one day.

On Thursday afternoon, the “Stop the Steal” group, which called for “boots on the ground to protect the integrity of the vote,” was adding 1,000 new members every 10 seconds.

“The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

She said the move was in line with measures Facebook was taking during “this period of heightened tension.”

The group had prepared for Facebook to take action, directing new members to an email sign-up page “in the event that social media censors this group.” A new group using the same name had more than a thousand members.

“Stop the Steal” was run by the Trump action group Women for America First. The non-profit organized protests against COVID-19 restrictions and supported Trump during his impeachment hearing. On Twitter, one of the Facebook group’s administrators, Amy Kremer, said: “The left is trying to steal an election and Social media is complicit,” she said. “This is outrageous!”

Unfounded and debunked claims about the integrity of the U.S. election have been spread on social media by Trump and high-profile Republican accounts and the hashtag #StopTheSteal has gained momentum.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in Birmingham, England and Raphael Satter in Washington; Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs in London; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)

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