You’ve probably seen Donald Trump supporters standing in front of ballot-counting facilities demanding that authorities “stop the count,” and you’ve probably seen similar pro-Trump groups in different states demanding that authorities “count every vote!” While it’s only been two days since the election count began, those slogans have already morphed into the more all-encompassing message of “stop the steal!” That’s thanks, in part, to a Facebook group that gathered over 300,000 members in 48 hours, and now the group is dead.
The rise and fall of the Stop the Steal Facebook group is a short story: Mother Jones reports that it was created on Wednesday, is an offshoot of a group called Women for America First that was founded by a Tea Party activist, and the domain that the groups are pushing users to visit, StolenElection.us, was registered by a firm that has done work for prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich. Some viral conspiracies like the recent “Sharpiegate” have been traced back to Stop the Steal, and it’s been used for organizing the chaotic demonstrations currently happening in states that will decide the winner of the presidential election.
In a statement to Gizmodo by email, a Facebook spokesperson said:
In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events. The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.
Other Stop the Steal groups exist but with far fewer members. One group has gone from 2,600 to 7,000 members in the last hour.
With votes still being counted, the Trump campaign is behaving as if they believe they’re losing. They’ve been filing lawsuits across the country with the hope of peeling off as many votes from being counted as possible. The exception to that rule is in cases in which they see a positive opportunity, such as when the campaign sued to keep a Nevada polling place open for an extra hour following technical difficulties. Trump has been making vague claims of fraud for months, and his supporters are out in force with the same vague claims. Just today, judges in Michigan and Georgia have rejected efforts to interfere with the counting of votes for procedural reasons and the Trump team’s failures to present any evidence of wrongdoing beyond hearsay.