Social Media Hearing

Alex Jones of Infowars was barred from Facebook on Thursday. 


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Facebook is cracking down on extremist figures and groups.

The social network on Thursday barred Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who hosts InfoWars, as well as far-right commentators Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer. The ban, which included InfoWars, extends to the social network’s Instagram photo-sharing service. The social network also banned Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, and several other controversial figures. 

A day later, President Donald Trump indicated he was aware of the situation, saying in a tweet that he will continue to monitor the “censorship” of Americans on social media platforms. He didn’t mention Facebook in his remarks.

Protesters also staged a small rally in downtown San Francisco, organizing around the hashtag #DemandFreeSpeech. 

Facebook said the banned people and groups had violated its rules against dangerous individuals and organizations. The move underscores Facebook’s tougher stance against hate speech as it faces criticism from activists, lawmakers and the public. Facebook has denied accusations that it censors conservative voices. 

“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.”


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In an email on Friday, Loomer said that she was “beyond upset” that Facebook called her a “dangerous individual.” She accused the company of having a “liberal agenda.”

“I’m a clear and ongoing threat to their liberal agenda,” she wrote, “and Facebook made the decision to ban me and other strong voices well before the 2020 Election to avoid even more controversy in the future.”

Facebook said it considers various factors in determining who is a “dangerous individual,” including whether the person has called for or committed acts of violence against people of certain races, ethnicities or national origins. The social network also looks at whether the person is a “self-described or identified follower of a hateful ideology.”

In part, Facebook banned Jones for hosting far-right commentator Gavin McInnes, who the social network had previously designated as a hate figure. Yiannopoulos praised McInnes and British far-right activist Tommy Robinson, who Facebook had also banned. Loomer praised and supported far-right political commentator Faith Goldy. 

Facebook said it will remove pages, groups and accounts set up to represent the banned people. Facebook events will also be pulled down if a banned individual is participating. On Thursday, several pages that represented Jones, Yiannopoulos and other figures who Facebook banned were still up for a period of time after the ban was announced. 

The social network appears to have announced the bans before it completed pulling down all of the affected pages, according to several reports. That gave some of the affected figures time to redirect readers to other sites and services where they were still active.

Facebook has been under mounting pressure from civil rights groups to crack down on hate speech, particularly in the wake of the New Zealand mosque shootings. In March, Facebook said it was banning white nationalist and white separatist content from the platform. 

Farrakhan and Jones didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Yiannopoulos couldn’t immediately be reached. 

Originally published May 2 at 11:35 a.m. PT
Update, 12:54 p.m.: Includes more background from Facebook. Update, May 3 at 5:35 p.m. PT: Adds Trump, Loomer responses





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