Facebook officials on Thursday barred seven extremist figures and organizations from the social media platform for violations of the site’s policies banning “dangerous individuals and organizations.”
Those banned include far-right media personality Milo Yiannopulos, Infowars founder Alex Jones and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The move comes amid increased scrutiny of the role social media companies play in spreading false information and inflammatory speech.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement, obtained by The New York Times. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
The site also banned the accounts of Jones’ Inforwars, far-right YouTube personality Paul Joseph Watson, far-right activist Laura Loomer and Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who in 2018 ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress, the Times reported.
Facebook officials told The Washington Post they were removing accounts, fan pages and groups connected to the seven in question on both Facebook and its photo-sharing platform, Instagram. The decision came after a review of two years’ worth of posts and activities, according to the Post.
The company stopped short of barring others from praising or supporting those banned, as it previously has done with groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, Reuters reported.
In a phone interview with the Post, Jones called Facebook’s ban “authoritarian” and disputed that he was “dangerous,” as the social media company has claimed.
“It’s a bizarre political stunt, and they’re trying to hide their censorship of conservatives by mixing in Louis Farrakhan,” he said. “I’m not really worried about me. I’m worried about how authoritarian this is… I guess free speech in America is dangerous. It’s comical.”
Watson said Thursday in a tweet that he was not given a reason for his ban.
“I broke none of their rules,” he wrote. “In an authoritarian society controlled by a handful of Silicon Valley giants, all dissent must be purged.”
Many of the users banned Thursday have seen similar moves before, both on Facebook and on other social media platforms.
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, 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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