Following November’s presidential election, President Donald Trump and many of his most ardent supporters pursued challenges related to supposed fraud behind his re-election loss.
In response to last week’s violent riot on Capitol Hill, however, Facebook took the decisive step of banning references to “stop the steal,” a rallying cry among pro-Trump protesters, on its platform.
“We are now removing content”
According to the company, its censorship of the phrase is intended to prevent more violence in the days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Facebook joined Twitter and other top social media sites in suspending Trump’s account following the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
One week later, the president was impeached for a second time as Big Tech firms clamped down even tighter on political speech from his allies.
In its announcement on Monday, Facebook confirmed that it would remove mentions of “stop the steal” after previously banning a related group boasting hundreds of thousands of members.
“We are now removing content containing the phrase ‘stop the steal’ under our Coordinating Harm policy from Facebook and Instagram,” the advisory explained.
“And I’m glad we did”
In a blog post, Facebook officials declared: “We began preparing for Inauguration Day last year. But our planning took on new urgency after last week’s violence in Washington, D.C., and we are treating the next two weeks as a major civic event.”
While this and other moves have sparked opprobrium among those who believe social media platforms are engaging in inappropriate censorship, Facebook maintains that it will still allow “robust conversations” on topics related to politics.
Those discussions, however, are no longer allowed to include claims that call the results of the 2020 race into question, however.
Of course, Facebook itself has faced harsh scrutiny for its alleged role in helping to facilitate last week’s chaos in D.C., with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg claiming that the riot was “largely” organized by users of other social media sites.
In defense of the company, she said: “We have clearly established principles that say you cannot call for violence. In this moment, the risk to our democracy was too big that we felt we had to take the unprecedented step of what is an indefinite ban [on Trump’s account]. And I’m glad we did.”