Facebook announced today that it is banning a number of far-right political figures on its platforms, including InfoWars founder Alex Jones, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopolous, and InfoWars contributor Paul Joseph Watson, among a host of others.
The ban extends to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and has been getting more attention as a hotbed of extremism and conspiracy theories in recent months. Jones, who has long trafficked in fringe conspiracy theories, was banned from Twitter in March of 2018. Leaked internal emails from Facebook had previously described Jones as a “hate figure,” which led users to wonder why he hadn’t been banned sooner.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organisations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” Facebook said in a statement emailed to Gizmodo. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
Facebook wouldn’t speak on the record about why they were being booted, but the platform has policies against “dangerous” individuals and organisations that espouse hateful ideologies.
“In an authoritarian society controlled by a handful of Silicon Valley giants, all dissent must be purged,” Paul Joseph Watson tweeted this afternoon, confirming the news that he was banned.
Other notable people who were banned today include Paul Nehlen, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi from Wisconsin, Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of anti-semitism on the national stage, and internet figure Laura Loomer, who is anti-Muslim.
Loomer was even banned in 2017 from using the services of other tech companies in the wake of anti-Muslim tirades, including Uber and Lyft. She recently staged a stunt at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s house to protest her ban from Twitter.
Facebook didn’t release specific reasons for the bans, but it’s pretty easy to figure out why some of these people may have been pushed off the platform. As just one example, Loomer recently shared an Instagram story where she called Islam a “cancer on humanity.”
“We need some patriots to rise up and protect our Constitution so we can prevent the establishment of a caliphate,” Loomer wrote in another Instagram post last month.
In a statement, progressive watchdog Media Matters praised Facebook’s ban on the right-wing personalities who gained followings thanks in large part to their presences on social media.
“The majority of the newly banned figures — Yiannopoulos, Loomer, Watson, Jones, and Nehlen — owed their influence to the massive reach they were allowed to cultivate through Facebook and Instagram, using their accounts to post content that dehumanised entire communities, promoted hateful conspiracy theories, and radicalised audiences — all while they profited from directing people to their own websites,” Media Matters said. “By cutting them off from this resource, Facebook will help limit the forces driving the spread of radical and often violent far-right ideology.”
Jones has filed suit against platforms that have banned him, including his payment processor, PayPal. But he said during an Infowars broadcast soon after the ban, “I don’t have the money to sue Facebook, and I don’t want to.”
Facebook shared the news that it planned to ban this group with several media outlets—likely under embargo, because that’s how these things work between tech companies and media—before all the accounts had actually been banned. Jones’ Instagram account remained active nearly an hour after the news broke at 7pm UK Time. Loomer reportedly posted a tip to her Instagram followers that they should follow her on Telegram.
So even when Facebook likely controlled when the news broke and when it banned this detestable group, it still managed to screw it up.
Featured image: AP