Trump Supporters Furious at 'Stop the Steal' Facebook Prank

Sunday November 8, 2020

Trump Supporters Furious at 'Stop the Steal' Facebook Prank
  (Source:AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Trump supporters who joined a Facebook group called "Stop the Steal" were livid when the group's name was suddenly changed - to "Gay Communists for Socialism."

The prank appeared to have been calibrated to lure Trump supporters who had joined an identically-named group that was shut down by Facebook administrators. It worked: Outraged Trump supporters lashed out, with some hurling profanity, others demanding to be taken out of the group, and some expressing confusion.

Facebook shut the group down because it violated the platform's restrictions on misleading information regarding the election. Moreover, Rolling Stone noted, the original group had been "platforming violent rhetoric." Once the original group went dark, "a slew of replacement Facebook groups have popped up with similar or slightly tweaked names hoping to avoid detection." The prank group easily fit in among those replacements.

The original "Stop the Steal" Facebook group drew more than 350,000 members in a matter of hours. UK newspaper The Guardian reported that the new group with the same name quickly drew in around 40,000 members of the original group.

The Guardian reported that "One administrator, whose real identity could not be verified" confirmed that the group "was a planned operation to troll conservatives."

As infuriated Trump supporters lashed out, the group's administrators used their own brand of fake news to keep the prank going, claiming that they had re-named the group to avoid being taken down by Facebook, and then suggesting that Facebook workers were the ones behind the abrupt name change.

At one point, the administrators assured group members that they were "on the phone" with Facebook staff to get the problem corrected - "a clear joke," the Guardian noted, "as Facebook does not have a public customer service phone number."

"We had no idea it would take off like this or suck in as many clueless people as it did when we made the switch," one group administrator told The Guardian.

Multiple media outlets reported on the prank, which was independently confirmed by news fact checking site Snopes.

"In answer to reader queries we've received, yes, it is true that one of the many Stop The Steal Facebook groups was renamed Gay Communists for Socialism," the site reported. "The group was created on Nov. 5, 2020."

Snopes added: "At 10:09 a.m. Eastern time on Nov. 6, group admin Jasper Q Tarber — which might be a fake name — changed the group's cover photo and changed its name at the same time."

Though the group shed conservative members after the name change, word of the prank spread and new members eagerly joined. The group's numbers swelled to 60,000 as a result. But some of those, the Guardian noted, were Trump supporters who still hadn't caught on.

"Still the same people, the same message, we just have to go into hiding because free speech isn't a thing under Facebook," one person insisted in a post to the group.

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