May 2, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In perhaps its most aggressive move yet to crack down on political voices it deems beyond the pale, Facebook announced Thursday that it has banned several online personalities for allegedly violating its policy against “dangerous” voices, most of whom are considered right-of-center.
On Thursday, the company banned the Facebook and Instagram accounts of online pundits Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer and Paul Joseph Watson, former congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and Jones’ InfoWars organization, The Atlantic reported.
“InfoWars is subject to the strictest ban,” The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz elaborated. “Facebook and Instagram will remove any content containing InfoWars videos, radio segments, or articles (unless the post is explicitly condemning the content), and Facebook will also remove any groups set up to share Infowars content and events promoting any of the banned extremist figures, according to a company spokesperson.”
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” Facebook 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.”
Facebook’s Community Standards policy on “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” states that it seeks to prevent “real-world harm” by forbidding accounts “that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence,” which it defines as including “organized hate” in addition to numerous violent or criminal acts.
None of the targets of the latest bans are mainstream figures; for instance, Farrakhan (whom The Washington Post initially misidentified as “far-right”) and Nehlen are known for anti-Semitic statements, and Jones is a notorious conspiracy theorist. Nevertheless, critics of Facebook argue the criteria and scope of their bans are deeply alarming, as they lend greater legitimacy to the pages they choose to tolerate while cutting off debate as a superior answer to objectionable speech.
“Farrakhan, like the others, should not have his fate decided by some little nerd in Silicon Valley who has decided his or her feelings are hurt,” Human Events editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam wrote. “His fate should be decided in the court of public opinion, with sunlight acting as the greatest disinfectant.” Kassam also suspected that Farrakhan’s inclusion was “simply a sop to make the decision seem less of a one-way street.”
I would love to hear FB’s “explanation” for this. I’ve never watched any of his videos, and he’s voiced his dislike for me many times on this site. But neither he nor anyone else should be banned w/o violating any rules. https://t.co/mKuV1Mmt5j
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) May 3, 2019
If they can't, they're not operating as platforms. They're operating as publishers. I despise Louis Farrakhan. But if they can't articulate how he has spoken beyond the boundaries of the First Amendment — or some other objective standard, at the least — banning him is wrong.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 2, 2019
Others suggested that the move was the latest reminder that government intervention is overdue:
It’s time to take a look at Section 230. These social media sites are not merely content publishers. They are forfeiting that classification with their overt bias and efforts to suppress “wrongthink”. They are content curators. They should lose their immunity.
— Jon Schweppe �� (@JonSchweppe) May 3, 2019
These social media giants are either public utilities or publishers. They can be either they prefer, but it’s time to choose. They are being permitted to tiptoe between the raindrops unlike any other industry in America, and thus given too much power over the flow of information.
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) May 3, 2019
Um… can you talk to your dad about this? https://t.co/rCTMunnL4w
— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) May 3, 2019
Government intervention in social media is a contentious topic on the Right, but Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas argued last month that the Trump administration could pursue three potential remedies without infringing on tech companies’ speech rights: revoking their immunity from liability for the content they allow (which is predicated on being truly neutral), breaking them up via antitrust laws, and whether biased enforcement of what most users assume to be neutral and open forums constitutes fraud.