Facebook’s link-banning decree more ‘terrifying’ than ‘dangerous individuals’ ban, tech expert warns
May 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Facebook’s latest round of bans for “dangerous” right-wing media personalities has been met with a flurry of concern among the conservative commentariat, but some are warning that the far bigger threat to online speech lies with the associated ban on other users linking content from banned sources.
This week, 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. A Facebook spokesperson claimed the “process for evaluating potential violators is extensive,” and applies to any purveyors of “violence and hate, regardless of ideology.”
Among the latest targets are figures known for espousing anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, but many mainstream conservatives have argued that the bans’ subjective criteria and extensive scope set dangerous precedents that will be extended to more mainstream voices, while exempting hateful pages aligned with Facebook’s own political leanings.
The Atlantic noted that in the case of Alex Jones’ InfoWars, the crackdown extends beyond the organization itself to other users that share its links for a variety of reasons. “Facebook and Instagram will remove any content containing InfoWars videos, radio segments, or articles (unless the post is explicitly condemning the content),” it reported, “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.”
Breitbart senior technology correspondent Allum Bokhari argued that therein lies the biggest problem.
“If you post InfoWars content on Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram, your post will be removed. If you post it repeatedly, you will be banned,” he wrote. “Note the wording, too — you’ll be banned unless you’re condemning InfoWars. Facebook is now brazenly using its power to reward certain political positions and punish others. This isn’t censorship of an individual or a group over a violation of terms of service. It’s the wholesale ban of an independent media site, which for all the criticism levied against it, has had a major impact on the politics of the United States.”
Bokhari takes the move, which was not wrapped in rationales such as a crackdown on bot accounts, as a sign that Facebook feels “emboldened to regulate the flow of news on its platform, knowing that no consequences are headed its way from Republicans on Capitol Hill or in the White House.”
President Donald Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the Oval Office last month, in what he called a “great meeting.” The president has previously pledged to take unspecified action against tech giants’ discrimination against conservatives, but little has happened so far. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has called on lawmakers and the administration to consider several potential remedies to the issue.
Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue! pic.twitter.com/QnZi579eFb— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2019
“Because their bans nearly exclusively target the right, potentially thousands of Republicans and Trump supporters won’t be able to use Facebook to encourage their friends to vote on election day 2020 — a massive advantage for the Democrats on one of the internet’s most politically influential platforms,” Bokhari warned. “It’s an unprecedented tilting of the scales in favor of Democrat-approved media, and it will have an enormous impact on the 2020 election."
The past week has only intensified conservative objections to what they call Facebook’s discrimination against and suppression of right-of-center content. The social network recently came under fire for blocking objective informational links about abortion from the American Pregnancy Association’s website and criticism of a Canadian coin to celebrate homosexuality, as well as flagging accurate reporting about a controversial history textbook as false. In March, a Project Veritas investigation detailed how Facebook “deboosts” traffic to several mainstream conservative sites.