Facebook will now remove content alluding to disinformation about a stolen US election, after Joe Biden’s presidential victory was certified last week despite rioters including those who organised “Stop The Steal” rallies on Facebook storming the US Capitol building in an attempt to stop the votes being counted.
The company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that Donald Trump’s account would be suspended indefinitely – and at least until after Joe Biden had been inaugurated as the new President of the United States.
Last year the company previously took action against QAnon in the lead up to the election.
“Stop The Steal” was a catchcry for Trump supporters who jumped on a lie being spread by Mr Trump and allies in the Republican Party, many who have now abandoned Mr Trump and disavowed the claim in a rush to condemn the events at the Capitol building that resulted in five deaths and a national moment of reckoning.
Those events were preceded by a “Stop The Steal” rally attended by Mr Trump and promoted in advance on Facebook, drawing in supporters, including from other states.
As he forecasted that he would months in advance, Mr Trump did not accept the votes of November’s election after it emerged he did not win re-election.
Several attempts to stop votes being certified failed in the courts, and the storming of the US Capitol to stop the certification of votes was ultimately unsuccessful after politicians returned to vote after the Capitol building invaders had been removed.
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It wasn’t until after Twitter and Facebook took action against Donald Trump’s ability to post (which the platforms have been facing pressure to do for years) that he conceded that a new administration will be sworn in on January 20 (although he never used the word “concede”, simply describing the inauguration of a new administration).
Many have argued that the recent actions of Facebook and Twitter are too little too late.
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After his personal Twitter account was permanently suspended, Mr Trump hit out at the social media giant from the @POTUS account claiming its employees had “coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left” to silence him.
The @POTUS account, which will be handed over to Joe Biden after his inauguration, is supposed to be used for the US President’s official statements, not their personal opinions.
Others on social media have stressed the potential implications on free speech, particularly under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees free speech but only applies to the intervention of government, not businesses like Facebook and Twitter.
Australia doesn’t have a guaranteed right to free speech and Facebook and Twitter are allowed to censor content on their platforms, in fact some of our laws require them to.
Facebook has announced it is treating the inauguration as a “major civic event” and was looking to prevent the incitement of any further violence.
“We are now removing content containing the phrase ‘stop the steal’ under our co-ordinating Harm policy from Facebook and Instagram,” the social media giant’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen and vice president of global policy management Monika Bickert said in a blog post.
“We removed the original Stop the Steal group in November and have continued to remove Pages, groups and events that violate any of our policies, including calls for violence,” the pair claimed.
They also said the company had “been allowing robust conversations related to the election outcome and that will continue”.
It’s not clear where the line between “robust conversations” about election outcomes crosses over into denial of the outcomes and incitement of violence and it might be some time before Facebook acts on the new plans.
“It may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts,” Mr Rosen and Ms Bickert wrote.
“We will stay vigilant to additional threats and take further action if necessary to keep people safe and informed,” they added in a joint statement.