In response to the January 6 insurrection, Facebook has moved to remove “Stop the Steal” election misinformation from the platform, but the new policy appears to be extremely limited, banning only posts or groups using that exact phrase. As a result, the social media giant is allowing activity dedicated to stopping nonexistent election fraud to continue to thrive.
On January 6, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, seeking to overturn the presidential election after then-President Donald Trump -- and his supporters in right-wing media and on social media -- spent months pushing misinformation to subvert the election. Facebook has attempted to both downplay the role the platform played in organizing these events and claim it has sufficiently addressed the issue. In reality, these measures were insufficient to address the misinformation and organizing that enabled the insurrection.
Media Matters has identified posts from Republican members of Congress prior to January 6 that pushed the false notion that Democrats stole the election and promoted “Stop the Steal” rallies. These posts are still on Facebook. Additionally:
- Media Matters identified at least 230 Facebook groups related to election fraud. As of January 28, over 150 of these groups still remain active.
- Of these groups, 91 specifically mentioned “Stop the Steal” or used similar language about a “stolen election” in their name or within posts. As of January 28, Facebook removed 66 of these groups, 2 have been archived, and 23 remain active.
- The additional 139 groups didn’t mention “Stop the Steal” specifically, but are related to so-called election fraud. As of January 28, 129 of these groups are still active, despite having similar content to the “Stop the Steal” groups. Facebook removed 6 groups and 4 others have been archived.
Doing the absolute minimum: Facebook’s response to election misinformation and “Stop the Steal”
Following the presidential election, right-wing influencers recycled “stop the steal,” a phrase initially used in 2018 to baselessly accuse Democrats of election fraud. This phrase quickly proliferated on social media; in fact, only two days after the election, Media Matters identified at least 34 groups and 39 events on Facebook that were dedicated to “Stop the Steal.”
In the months after the election, Facebook took minimal action against election misinformation from Trump and his allies and even less action against efforts to organize and promote “Stop the Steal” events, despite a clear problem. The platform finally made changes after the tragic event at the Capitol, announcing it would remove content with the phrase “stop the steal” in the lead-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and banning “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.
Facebook also temporarily banned Trump from both Facebook and Instagram for at least two weeks until Inauguration Day, claiming that “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” Whether or not the former president regains his account is now in the hands of Facebook’s Oversight Board.
Even though the platform said it retroactively removed “Stop the Steal” groups and content, many still remain active. It appears Facebook is removing only content that uses the exact phrase “stop the steal,” and even then, it hasn’t gotten it all.
For example, we found several similar “stop the steal” related posts, some remaining and some removed. One post with “stop the steal” language was removed, and two others that don’t have that specific wording -- but are otherwise the same -- remain available.
Media Matters has also identified over 190 active posts from Republican members of Congress pushing “Stop the Steal,” related events, and other related keywords prior to the January 6 riot. And we identified at least 230 Facebook groups dedicated to the topic of so-called election fraud, roughly 150 of which are still active on Facebook. (This activity also counters Facebook's claims that the insurrection was not organized on its platform.)
Several Republican members of Congress promoted “Stop the Steal” on their Facebook pages. Facebook has not taken down these posts.
Some members of the “sedition caucus” — the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol — used either their official or unofficial Facebook pages (or both) to promote election misinformation about voter fraud and “Stop the Steal” events.
Between Election Day and January 13, “sedition caucus” members mentioned keywords related to “Stop the Steal” a total of 193 times on Facebook. Members pushing “Stop the Steal” include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
Marjorie Taylor Greene
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a QAnon and 9/11 conspiracy theorist who was a right-wing commentator prior to being elected to represent Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. Greene has a history of using social media to spread misinformation and toxic rhetoric -- something that recently got her suspended from Twitter for 12 hours.
Greene’s posts about “Stop the Steal” were no exception to this trend. Since Election Day, Greene has used the phrase in posts on her unofficial, or personal, Facebook page at least 32 times, with 29 of these posts still active on the platform. At least 12 of these posts encourage users to sign her official “Stop the Steal” petition. She has also made at least 56 other posts using similar keywords. (We searched for the keywords stop the steal, stopthesteal, sts, fightfortrump, fight for trump, saveamerica, save america, fightforamerica, and fight for america.)
Greene’s official Facebook page has 4 posts with nearly 7,000 total interactions using these same keywords to refer to “Stop the Steal” without using the specific phrase.
Rep. Ronny Jackson, a former White House doctor, has made at least 30 posts since Election Day using his unofficial page that mention a number of keywords related to “Stop the Steal.” Notably, several of these posts appear to have been attempts at fundraising based on the January 6 event, and he even encouraged people to “FIGHT FOR TRUMP” on the morning of the insurrection.
Since Election Day, Rep. Louie Gohmert has made 5 posts using his official page that mention “Stop The Steal.” Many of these posts also included inaccurate content from right-wing media outlets such as Newsmax and The Epoch Times promoting conspiracy theories and misinformation about the election results.
Newly elected Rep. Madison Cawthorn has used his campaign page to promote “Stop the Steal” at least 4 times since Election Day. These posts are self-promotional, encouraging people to donate to “defend our election” or even touting his participation as a speaker at the rally prior to the insurrection at the Capitol.
Rep. Mo Brooks has mentioned “Stop the Steal” on his official page only once since Election Day, in which he asked people to “tune in” to the January 6 rally and said he was going to “tell the American people about the election system weaknesses that the Socialist Democrats exploited to steal this election.” Another official post related to “stop the steal” features a statement in which Brooks defends his involvement with the “Stop the Steal” rally against “Vicious & Scurrilous Fake News Media And Socialist Democrat Attacks.” These two posts earned over 18,000 total interactions.
Rep. Paul Gosar spoke at one of the “Stop the Steal” events held in Arizona, pushing baseless claims of election fraud and falsely claiming that the results of the presidential election could be overturned. He reportedly promoted “Stop the Steal” events dozens of times and even promoted the January 6 event in D.C. with a post from his official government Facebook page. This post earned over 5,000 interactions.
Facebook’s narrow policy against “Stop the Steal” content still allows groups dedicated to “stopping” election fraud to thrive on the platform
Media Matters has identified at least 230 Facebook groups related to election fraud that were actively attracting members after the election by referencing “Stop the Steal” or election fraud in their name and/or sharing content related to voting. These groups -- which range from having just one member to thousands -- were also active after the January 6 insurrection.
Notably, 91 of these groups specifically mentioned “Stop the Steal” or similar language about a “stolen election” in their name or within posts. Following Facebook’s policy change, the platform removed 66 of those groups and as of January 28, 23 remain active on Facebook, with some of them seeming to have evaded the ban by changing their names. Two groups are archived because they no longer have an administrator to run them. The active groups are:
- Protect the Vote : Wisconsin
- stop the democrats from stealing the election
- Steal The Election Start A Civil War
- Stop the Trump Steal election fraud again Kamala Harris and Joe Biden
- Stolen 2020 Election
- stolen election
- Patriots for a Fair Election (formerly StolenElection2020)
- BIDEN STOLE the Election
- Stolen Election: Biden will never be my President
- MAGA movement 2021 #Trump2024 (formerly Free and Fair Elections, 2020 was stolen.)
- Stop the Count
- Biden stole the election
- Conservatives United (formerly Stop The Theft)
- Theft by the Left
- Stop the vote stealing
- The Election is Being Stolen.
- Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election
- Joe Biden Stole the 2020 Election.
- Joe Biden stole the election
- Biden should not be President they stole the Election
- Joe Biden is a kiddy toucher that stole the election
- Biden Stole The VOTE!
Of the 230 total groups, 139 didn’t mention “stop the steal” specifically but are related to so-called election fraud. Facebook removed only 6 of these groups, while 4 groups have been archived. As of January 28, 129 of these groups are still active, despite also being dedicated to stopping (nonexistent) voter fraud and having similar content to the “Stop the Steal” groups. Some of these election fraud groups with thousands of members include:
- We the People... Demand the TRUTH! — over 40,700 members
- Demand Regular in Person Voting Option New Jersey — over 18,600 members
- VOTE ‘22 — roughly 16,000 members
- UNITE LONG ISLAND-Separate Our Votes! — roughly 12,000 members
- We the People (formerly Audit the Vote) — over 9,700 members