Facebook will remove certain content containing the phrase “stop the steal” from its social media platforms, in response to what it says are “continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence”.
The company, which is treating the next two weeks as a “major civic event”, says it will continue to allow “robust conversations related to the election outcome”.
“But with continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration,” the company said in a blog post.
“It may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts.”
A Facebook spokeswoman clarified the company would allow posts that clearly share the “stop the steal” phrase to either condemn baseless claims of electoral fraud or to discuss the issue neutrally.
In November, the company removed the “Stop the Steal” group in which supporters of US President Donald Trump posted violent rhetoric.
However, it did not act against similar rhetoric in the run-up to the election and faced criticism this week for failing to remove posts spurring on the siege of Capitol Hill.
It is the latest bid to crack down on baseless claims about the presidential election in the wake of the riot.
Social media platforms line up to boot Donald Trump in wake of US Capitol violence
Here are the online platforms that have either banned or restricted harmful speech, and where the US President might look next in his search for a new megaphone.
Social media companies this week decided they had finally seen enough from the President.
Facebook and Instagram suspended Mr Trump at least until president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Twitch and Snapchat also disabled Mr Trump’s accounts.
To top it all off, Twitter ended a nearly 12-year run and closed his account, severing an instant line of communication to his 89 million followers.
Some people are crying foul.
“Free Speech Is Under Attack! Censorship is happening like NEVER before! Don’t let them silence us. Sign up at http://DONJR.COM to stay connected!” his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted on Friday (local time).
Can social media companies do this?
The short answer is yes.
As the Congressional Research Service has explained in a report for federal politicians and their staff, lawsuits predicated on a website’s decision to remove content largely fail.
That’s because the free speech protections set out in the First Amendment generally apply only when a person is harmed by an action of the government.
“The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private sector organisations. That’s not how this works,” said Chris Krebs, when asked on Sunday whether censorship by social media companies violated freedom of speech protections.
Mr Krebs oversaw election cybersecurity efforts at the Department of Homeland Security until Mr Trump fired him when he disputed election fraud claims.
In the wake of the riot at the US Capitol, Twitter banned the outgoing President over concerns two tweets he sent last week could incite violence.(AP: John Minchillo)
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, he explained that companies enforce their own standards and policies for users.
That’s what happened at Twitter.
What was Twitter’s reasoning?
Twitter said after reviewing Mr Trump’s account in the context of the riot at the Capitol, it was concerned about two tweets he sent on Friday that Twitter said could incite violence.
- “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
- “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Read more about the fallout from the US election:
The first tweet, the company said, was received by some supporters as further confirmation that the November 3 election was not legitimate — but in fact, the notion of widespread voter fraud is a baseless claim.
The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters was also interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the Capitol.
The company said the second tweet could serve as encouragement to those considering violent acts that the inauguration would be a “safe” target since he would not be attending.
“Our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so,” Twitter wrote.
Posted 12hhours agoTueTuesday 12 JanJanuary 2021 at 12:06am, updated 12hhours agoTueTuesday 12 JanJanuary 2021 at 12:12am