MENLO PARK (CBS SF/CNN/AP) — Facebook announced Thursday afternoon that it had designated some high-profile people, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who’s notorious for using anti-Semitic language, and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as “dangerous” and said it will be purging them from its platforms.
Jones and his media outlet InfoWars had previously been banned from Facebook in in August 2018, but had maintained a presence on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. On Thursday, Jones and InfoWars will be barred from Instagram as well.
Other people banned Thursday include fringe right-wing media personalities Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson. Also included are Paul Nehlen, an anti-Semite who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016 and 2018.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN Business. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
A Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business the company goes through a lengthy process and takes into consideration a number of factors before determining an individual to be “dangerous.”
The Facebook spokesperson said such factors include 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.
Ian Sherr is the Executive Editor at CNET. He says companies like Facebook really do want to leave up as much content as they can.
“Right now, we’re starting to see them push further and further toward moderating aggressively their platform,” said Sherr. “Facebook and
Twitter are very reluctant to be in these roles.”
All the people who were banned were on the far right, but Sherr says these are probably not the only six people that have been banned.
“I am willing to bet that there is a much longer list of people that they have banned. And part of what’s interesting here is that these are very high profile people, they have a lot of following,” explained Sherr. “I don’t begrudge them for trying to figure it out. But the question is, are they doing the right thing? I don’t know.”
In some instances, when Facebook bans an individual or organization, it also restricts others from expressing praise or support for them on its platforms, the spokesperson said, adding that the company continues to view such action as the correct approach. That policy may not apply to any or all of the people banned Thursday, however.
The spokesperson added that Facebook will remove groups, pages and accounts created to represent the banned individuals when it knows the individual is participating in the effort.
Asked to comment buy the Associated Press on the bans, Yiannopoulos emailed only “You’re next.”
Jones reacted angrily Thursday during a live stream of his show on his Infowars website.
“They didn’t just ban me. They just defamed us. Why did Zuckerberg even do this?” Jones said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Jones called himself a victim of “racketeering” by “cartels.”
“There’s a new world now, man, where they’re banning everybody and then they tell Congress nobody is getting banned,” he said.
Watson, meanwhile, tweeted that he was not given a reason and that he “broke none of their rules.”
“Hopefully, other prominent conservatives will speak out about me being banned, knowing that they are next if we don’t pressure the Trump administration to take action,” he wrote.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.