Internet-connected workouts were supposed to be straightforward. You burn some calories, log your progress, and go on about your day. At least that's what Peloton seemed to have planned initially. These days, however, the company is trying to tackle political polarization on its platform by cracking down on #StopTheSteal hashtags proliferating through the network. According to The Verge, Peloton is preventing users from creating the hashtag, telling users that it violates the network's community guidelines.
Last year, as Input reported, Peloton removed similar QAnon affiliated hashtags such as #WWGOnePelotonWGA, #MAGA2020, and #Q from its network. These hashtags lead to communities sharing far-right conspiracy theories, including a baseless claim that a Satanic cabal of powerful elites operating in Washington, D.C., is ready to uproot the United States and only Donald Trump can save the country from irreparable doom.
Background — Peloton's community guidelines and moderation policy are out in the open for every user to read. The network prohibits "hateful, offensive, or obscene speech" and this extends to:
[L]eaderboard names, locations, profile pictures, tags or any other User Content that promotes, relates to, or condones lack of respect, discrimination, or violence of any kind against individuals or groups based on age, ethnicity/culture, race, nationality, immigration status, disability status, physical ability, gender or gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status, body shape, socio-economic status, or political affiliation.
As a result, Stop The Steal — a hoax peddled by right-wingers including far-right QAnon conspiracy theorists — is in direct violation of Peloton's rules as it promotes unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 presidential election and includes frequent calls for violence and riots against the government. Peloton's decision comes days after followers of the Stop The Steal movement stormed Congress, a chaotic day that led to the deaths of at least five people.
Conventionally, fitness apps tend to be politically neutral zones. The concept behind these apps and programs is to emphasize workouts, nutrition plans, and offer community support to anyone trying to get physically healthier. Political discussions are actively discouraged. That said, with the ongoing political tensions in the United States, apps like Peloton have no choice but to join other tech platforms in blocking the spread of conspiracy-related content. The reason for doing so could be based on ethical concerns or, in more realistic and economic terms, an attempt to calm the nerves of shareholders who don't want a right-wing mess on their hands. Peloton's Q1 shareholder letter, in fact, shows just how serious it is about keeping investors happy.