The company issued a statement saying it was removing content containing the phrase that was used by supporters of President Donald Trump to question the integrity of the 2020 general election. Trump supporters held multiple rallies across the country under the “Stop the Steal” slogan following the Nov. 3 election.
The social media company said that the move is an attempt to remove content that “could incite further violence during these next few weeks.” Content will be removed under the company’s Coordinating Harm policy.
“We’ve been allowing robust conversations related to the election outcome and that will continue,” Facebook officials Guy Rosen and Monika Bickert said in a statement.
“But with continued attempts to organize 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 move comes as big tech companies ramp up efforts to police content that they claim could lead to potential harm offline. The companies’ latest round of content policing started after pockets of civil unrest and acts of violence marred otherwise peaceful protests at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
A group of rioters and a minority of protesters waving American and Trump flags illegally stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were counting electoral votes in a joint session of Congress. Clashes on the day left five people dead—three for medical reasons—and dozens of police officers injured.
Facebook said that it has teams working 24/7 to enforce its policies days leading up to and around Jan. 20. They said they have already removed a significant number of posts.
“We will keep our Integrity Operations Center operating at least through January 22 to monitor and respond to threats in real time,” the company said.
The company, which has indefinitely suspended Trump’s account on the platform, has also paused ads in the United States about politics and the elections and said it would keep a number of measures and restrictions that put in place before the U.S. elections, such as not recommending civic groups for people to join.
A “news digest” will be added to the platform’s news section so that its users can “find reliable news” about Jan. 20, the company added.
The targeted moderation by Facebook, Twitter, and other Silicon Valley companies have raised concerns over First Amendment rights and the lack of checks and balances on decisions made by big tech companies. Discussions over limiting or eliminating liability protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act for tech companies that have engaged in censoring or political conduct have been heavily discussed in the past year.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also expressed concern over Twitter’s decision to suspend Trump from social media, saying that it could set a precedent for big tech companies to silence voices.
“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions— especially when political realities make those decisions easier,” the ACLU statement read.
Apple, Google, and Amazon have also garnered widespread scrutiny for banning the social media network Parler from their services. Parler, which has attracted a large following of classical liberal and conservative-leaning users, has filed a lawsuit against Amazon in an effort to reverse the company’s decision.