To head off a potential encore of last week’s violent insurrection, Facebook is blocking users from creating new Facebook events in the vicinity of the White House, the U.S. Capitol building, and any state capitol buildings through President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. It’s also restricting features for U.S. users based on certain indicators such as repeated policy violations.
These measures are intended to keep people from potentially using the platform to incite violence, Facebook said Friday in an updated company blog post. Social media played an integral role in the organization of Jan. 6's attack on Capitol Hill as pro-Trump insurgents reportedly conspired on the “free speech”-centered social network Parler, the chat app Telegram, and the walkie-talkie app Zello among other online platforms to coordinate the siege.
Facebook says it’s blocking accounts and pages based outside the U.S. from creating events within the country as well, as it did in the lead up to and following the U.S. presidential election. Some U.S. users may also be banned from creating live videos or events, groups, or pages “based on signals such as repeat violations of our policies,” the company added.
“We will continue to monitor and add additional measures as needed,” Facebook said.
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It should be noted that these far-right conspirators weren’t exactly hiding their efforts the first time around, openly posting to pro-Trump corners of the internet and mainstream platforms alike in the weeks leading up to the insurrection. As the Washington Post notes, more than 100,000 Facebook and Instagram users posted hashtags affiliated with the movement to overturn Biden’s victory such as “FightForTrump” and “StopTheSteal,” a reference to thoroughly debunked claims of election fraud peddled by the president and his supporters.
So Facebook’s latest security measures sadly fall in line with the company’s M.O. of implementing welcome but grievously overdue moderation policies. To wit, Facebook finally began cracking down wholesale on any content containing the phrase “stop the steal” just earlier this week.
Facebook, along with just about every other social media platform caught hosting far-right extremists ahead of the attack, has largely attempted to downplay its role in the whole ordeal. On Monday, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg claimed that the insurrection was “largely” organized on other internet services such as Parler and Gab, both of which have similarly pointed the blame elsewhere.