This combination of file photo shows minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, in Tehran, Iran, on Nov. 8, 2018, left, and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in Washington on Sept. 5, 2018, right. Facebook has banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and others from its platform and from Instagram saying they violated its ban against hate and violence. The company said Thursday it has also banned extreme right-wing figures Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and the conservative conspiracy site Infowars. Jones was already banned from Facebook but not from Instagram. (AP Photo)

Facebook bans ‘dangerous individuals’ cited for hate speech

Facebook has banned Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, among others

After years of pressure to crack down on hate and bigotry, Facebook has banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals.”

The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Jones’ site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to both Facebook’s main service and to Instagram and extend to fan pages and other related accounts.

Decried as censorship by several of those who got the axe, the move signals a renewed effort by the social media giant to remove people and groups promoting objectionable material such as hate, racism and anti-Semitism.

Removing some of the best-known figures of the U.S. political extreme takes away an important virtual megaphone that Facebook has provided the likes of Jones, Yiannopoulos and others over the years. But it does not address what might be done with lesser known figures and those who stay on the margins of what Facebook’s policies allow.

READ MORE: ‘Infowars’ host Jones says his on-air persona not a ‘trick’

Critics praised the move but said there is more to be done on both Facebook and Instagram.

“We know that there are still white supremacists and other extremist figures who are actively using both platforms to spread their hatred and bigotry,” said Keegan Hankes, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S.

Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook executive and an internet policy expert at Harvard, said the ban isn’t as big a step as Facebook appears to be painting it — it’s just enforcing its existing policy.

“There will always be more purveyors of hate speech that try to come on these platforms,” he said. “Will advocates have to push year after year just to get (a handful of) individuals off? At this rate it seems likely. And this doesn’t address the problem of what happens at the margins.”

Facebook has previously suspended Jones from its flagship service temporarily; this suspension is permanent and includes Instagram. Twitter has also banned Loomer, Jones and Yiannopoulos, though Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam long known for provocative comments widely considered anti-Semitic, still had an account Thursday. So did Watson, who rose to popularity as editor-at-large at Infowars and has nearly a million followers on the site.

Facebook said the newly banned accounts violated its policy against dangerous individuals and organizations. The company says it has always banned people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology.

It added that when it bans someone under this policy, the company also prohibits anyone else from praising or supporting them.

In this case, though, the company said people can speak positively about the six banned individuals as long as what they’re saying otherwise complies with Facebook policies.

For years, social media companies have been under pressure from civil rights groups and other activists to clamp down on hate speech on their services. Following the deadly white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Google, Facebook and PayPal began banishing extremist groups and individuals who identified as or supported white supremacists.

A year later, widespread bans of Jones and Infowars reflected a more aggressive enforcement of policies against hate speech. But Facebook instituted only a 30-day suspension (though Twitter banned him permanently).

It is not clear what events led to Thursday’s announcement. In a statement, Facebook merely said, “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”

READ MORE: Facebook extends ban on hate speech to ‘white nationalists’

Last month, it extended its ban on hate speech to prohibit the promotion and support of white nationalism and white separatism. It had previously allowed such material even though it has long banned white supremacists.

Asked to comment on the bans, Yiannopoulos emailed only “You’re next.”

Jones reacted angrily Thursday during a live stream of his show on his Infowars website.

“They didn’t just ban me. They just defamed us. Why did Zuckerberg even do this?” Jones said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Jones called himself a victim of “racketeering” by “cartels.”

“There’s a new world now, man, where they’re banning everybody and then they tell Congress nobody is getting banned,” he said.

Watson, meanwhile, tweeted that he was not given a reason and that he “broke none of their rules.”

“Hopefully, other prominent conservatives will speak out about me being banned, knowing that they are next if we don’t pressure the Trump administration to take action,” he wrote.

Farrakhan, Nehlen and Loomer did not immediately return messages for comment.

Harvard’s Ghosh said kicking off individuals with big followings, such as Jones, goes against Facebook’s commercial interest.

“As soon as they kick Alex Jones or Laura Loomer off their platform, it immediately ticks of a huge number of people,” he said.

___

Associated Press Writers Tali Arbel in New York and Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland, contributed to this story.

___

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Federal candidates talk most pressing issues in Revelstoke

Concerns include jobs, logging, climate change, affordable housing, Highway 1

Kootenay-Columbia riding candidates have Canada’s highest expense limit

Facebook data also shows who is buying ads on the social media website

Revelstoke roads and weather: avalanche control planned

Expect 20 min road closures west of Revelstoke on Oct. 21

Competition shakes up for the Okanagan Mixoff

The Okanagan Mixoff takes place Nov. 7 in Kelowna

Everything you need to know before getting the flu shot

Island pharmacist shares concerns, recommendations before flu season hits

Viral video sensation brings skills to Okanagan

Jacob Moon joins Hear the Music for concert and workshop

Walk this way, if you dare at North Okanagan farm theatre

Caravan Farm Theatre near Vernon presents Walk of Terror

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018 and the end of the year

Fewer people prescribed opioids in B.C., but other provinces lack data: doctors

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration

Electric cello, stolen from vehicle in Williams Lake, returned to U.S. owner

Rita Rice of Texas said she and her husband had given up hope of ever seeing it again

Park shelter proposed in honour of Salmon Arm volunteer Rob Nash

City council supports plan while family and friends to cover cost of building, materials

Most Read