ReutersNov 06, 2020 01:15:40 IST
By Elizabeth Culliford and Raphael Satter
(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's supporters are pushing false claims online about Tuesday's election and organizing protests against the baseless claim that Democrats were stealing the election, with more than 365,000 supporters joining one rapidly growing Facebook group in a single day.
The "Stop the Steal" group, which calls for "boots on the ground to protect the integrity of the vote," is run by the Trump action group Women for America First. The group organized protests against COVID-19 restrictions and supported Trump during his impeachment hearing and is adding 1,000 new members every 10 seconds.
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.
On Thursday, Twitter flagged a tweet from the president that said votes received after Election Day in the United States would not be counted. It is normal in U.S. elections for states to count votes for days, or even weeks, after voting ends on Election Day.
On Facebook, the 'Stop the Steal' group, which claims "Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes" directed new members to an email sign-up page "in the event that social media censors this group."
Facebook groups are billed as community forums for shared interests but watchdog organizations and social media researchers have argued that they can be hotbeds for hyper-partisan misinformation.
A post that got over 1,700 likes in the "Stop the Steal" group said: "When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty."
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the group. An email and a telephone message left with Women for America First was not immediately returned.
Protests continued Thursday after the previous day about 200 supporters of the Republican president, some armed with rifles and handguns, gathered outside an election office in Phoenix, Arizona, following unsubstantiated rumors that votes were not being counted.
In Detroit, officials blocked about 30 people, mostly Republicans, from entering a vote-counting facility amid unfounded claims that the vote count in Michigan was fraudulent.
Election experts say fraud is very rare in U.S. voting.
The "Stop the Steal" group's administrations and moderators include veteran Tea Party activist Amy Kremer and her daughter Kylie. It also includes Jennifer Lawrence and Dustin Stockton, two members of the group We Build the Wall that was raided by federal agents in August as part of a fraud investigation.
(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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