The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Free Speech

Facebook "Removing Content Containing the Phrase 'Stop the Steal'"


From an official Facebook post:

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. We're taking additional steps and using the same teams and technologies we used during the general election to stop misinformation and content that could incite further violence during these next few weeks.

We are now removing content containing the phrase "stop the steal" under our Coordinating Harm policy from Facebook and Instagram. 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. We've been allowing robust conversations related to the election outcome and that will continue. 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. It may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts….

There's nothing illegal about Facebook doing this. But there seems every likelihood that there will be much more happening along these lines. And, with the Parler story, we see that major tech players are going to try to blacklist any new platforms that fail to comply with the tech players' speech restriction demands.

As I mention in my N.Y. Times piece,

In general, it's good for private businesses to be able to decide how to use their property. And trying to create laws constraining those decisions may well do more harm than good — always a danger with even the best-intentioned of new laws. Yet both liberals and conservatives should appreciate the perils of power, especially the power of enormous companies that have few competitors and huge influence over political life.