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Facebook to remove 'stop the steal' content ahead of inauguration

The social network is taking tougher action against voter fraud misinformation after last week's deadly riot at the US Capitol.

Facebook is cracking down on unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud after violence broke out on Capitol Hill last week.
Image by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Facebook said Monday it'd remove content from the main social network and Instagram that includes the phrase "stop the steal," which has been used by President Donald Trump and his supporters to push baseless claims about voter fraud.

In November, Facebook shut down a massive group called Stop the Steal with more than 364,000 members. Since then, the company said it removed pages, groups and events for violating its rules, including against inciting violence, but didn't say how many. In a rare move, Facebook also has locked Trump's accounts on its platforms indefinitely after a deadly riot broke out at the US Capitol on Wednesday. Unlike Twitter, the company hasn't permanently barred Trump's accounts yet, but Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said Monday the company has no plans to lift the ban right now.

Despite toughening its stance against misinformation, Facebook has struggled to combat false claims about voter fraud. BuzzFeed News found last week there were at least 66 groups on Facebook tied to the "stop the steal" slogan. The discovery of the groups raised questions about how well the social network is enforcing its rules or cracking down on online lies.

"It may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts," Facebook said in the blog post

Social networks are bracing for the possibility of more violence before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. The FBI reportedly warned that armed protests are being planned "at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the US Capitol from 17 January through 20 January," ABC correspondent Aaron Katersky tweeted Monday.

Facebook said it's monitoring and responding to threats in real time at its Integrity Operations Center through Jan. 22. The company is also keeping its ban on political ads in place and is working with law enforcement. It will also add a news digest to Facebook News during the week of the inauguration so users can find trustworthy news about the event.