Facebook and Instagram ban Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan and other controversial figures
On Thursday afternoon, Facebook announced that it will be purging Alex Jones and several high-profile figures from its platforms.
Jones is a radio host who runs the alt-right media platform InfoWars. The controversial website is known for propagating outrageous conspiracy theories, like falsely claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting was a "hoax." Jones also promoted the viral Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely claimed high-ranking Democratic officials were running a child sex ring in the basement of Comet Ping Pong, a D.C. restaurant that does not have a basement.
Pages affiliated with Jones were previously banned by the Silicon Valley giant last year. However, he maintained a social media presence on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. This announcement means Jones is barred from using Instagram as well. YouTube, Apple, and Roku have also banned the scandalous provocateur from their platforms.
In addition to Jones, Facebook banned fringe Breitbart personality Milo Yiannopoulos; far-right influencer Laura Loomer, anti-Semitic neo-Nazi and white supremacist Paul Nehlen; Jones' InfoWars protege Paul Thomas Watson; plus Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, known for his anti-Semitic rhetoric.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.... The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today."
Violators are determined "dangerous" by several factors: "whether the person or organization has ever called for violence against individuals based on race, ethnicity, or national origin; whether the person has been identified with a hateful ideology; whether they use hate speech or slurs in their about section on their social media profiles; and whether they have had pages or groups removed from Facebook for violating hate speech rules," CNN reports.
Some of the banned individuals have criticized Facebook's decision, claiming they are victims of unfair partisan censorship. "I have been banned by Facebook. Was given no reason. I broke none of their rules," tweeted Paul Thomas Watson, one of the flagship personalities of the conspiracy theory website InfoWars. "In an authoritarian society controlled by a handful of Silicon Valley giants, all dissent must be purged." "They labelled Farrakhan "far right" to hide the fact that these bans were purely a partisan political purge," he added.
Meanwhile, others criticized Facebook for not doing enough to stop peddlers of fake news and dangerous rhetoric. "This is a step in the right direction, and it shows exactly why Facebook needs to be thinking about enforcement in a more holistic way," said Cristina López G, the deputy director for extremism at Media Matters for America, per the Guardian. “Facebook can help curb the spread of extremism, hate and bigotry that flourished on its platforms if it remains open to reforming enforcement measures.”