The phrase started gaining traction on social media in November 2020 as social media users and protest groups used the slogan to share their concerns about the irregularities surrounding the 2020 US.
But now, Facebook has decided that because the term was used “by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC,” the mere mention of the phrase by anyone, regardless of whether they were at the US Capitol or involved in violence, is prohibited.
The Stop the Steal phrase is often used by grassroots protest movements who believe that Democrats stole the election. These movements have previously had their groups and websites censored by Facebook and Twitter but users have been allowed to post the phrase.
In November, Facebook shut down a popular Stop the Steal group that was created by the pro-Trump, not for profit social welfare organization, Women for America First, and claimed that there were “worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”
However, Cindy Chafian, the Director of Coalitions at Women for America First, disputed Facebook’s characterization of the group:
“This woman is an absolute liar. I ran the group. We were clear we did not condone violence. The real reason is they don’t want the right organizing. She’ll say nothing about the radical violent left but 350k conservative women are a threat.”
This tactic of censoring Stop the Steal and associating the movement with “violence” or “harm” has become increasingly pervasive among Big Tech platforms and mainstream media outlets in recent months.
Facebook has been used to organize countless other protest movements where some bad actors have called for violence and where the protests have resulted in some real-world violence. And any popular group or page with hundreds of thousands of users will inevitably have a small proportion of bad actors who manage to briefly post calls for violence before they’re flagged and removed by moderators.
Yet the phrases used by the members of these movements aren’t being associated with violence and banned. Only the Stop the Steal phrase is being given that treatment by Facebook.
Not only is Facebook banning the use of the Stop the Steal phrase but it’s also going to label all posts that “attempt to delegitimize the election result” with a message to “reflect that Joe Biden is the sitting president.”
This selective implementation of Facebook’s rules against violence was previously highlighted by Facebook insider Zach McElroy who revealed that its moderators were told to leave a violent anti-Trump meme up but censor a cartoon anti-Democrat meme because it was interpreted as a case of “high severity violence and incitement.”
Beyond the selective application of the rules, Facebook’s blanket ban on the Stop the Steal phrase is reflective of Silicon Valley’s growing tendency to ban dissenting opinions about the election.
YouTube is now striking and suspending channels that allege “widespread fraud, errors, or glitches” changed the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election and Facebook has banned all photos and videos from protestors at the US Capitol.