hate speech

Facebook Announced It’s Banning Far-Right Extremists But Forgot to Actually Ban Them

Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook announced on Thursday that it had banned a number of far-right extremists from both Facebook and Instagram. You might have read about it at precisely 2:01 p.m. ET, the time the embargo lifted from the select number of sites Facebook decided to give this news to exclusively. (We’re gonna just say it seems like an odd strategy to make splashy news out of what is effectively Facebook doing what it is supposed to do —removing people and accounts that violate its Terms of Service — and leave it at that.) The list includes Alex Jones, Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Paul Nehlen. Though he’s not a far-right extremist, Facebook also banned Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Farrakhan an “anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power.”

The real goof here, however, was that at the time outlets were allowed to go public with the news, Facebook had yet to pull accounts from several of the people who are now banned. Milo Yiannopoulos managed to eke out one final post on Instagram, captured for posterity by BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac, letting his followers know the ban was impending and to please make sure they were signed up for his email newsletter. Whoopsy! Loomer and Jones also still had live accounts when the news broke. All have since been taken down, and if you search for them now you’ll find a “user not found” notification.

“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN 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.” In addition to banning those people, a Facebook spokesperson told CNN it is possible that people who praised or supported the now-banned accounts could also have their content restricted. The spokesperson did not say if this applied to anyone specifically. As for the reasons for finally banning these accounts, Facebook said it used a number of criteria, including “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 also reports.

Alex Jones, an internet hoaxer who recently gave sworn testimony claiming “psychosis” made him peddle lies about the shooting at Sandy Hook, and Infowars had previously been banned from Facebook. However, both were still on Instagram prior to Thursday. Jones and Infowars, as well as Milo Yiannopoulos and Nehlen, are also banned from Twitter. Loomer was banned from Twitter in 2018 (her account was unverified in 2017) for a tweet in which she called Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim, “anti Jewish” and said that in the Muslim faith “homosexuals are oppressed,” “women are abused … and forced to wear the hijab.” She later doubled down saying her tweets was “100 percent true and factual.”

Instagram Bans Extremists, Forgets to Actually Ban Them