The company has struggled to control far-right hate speech on the platform in recent years
Facebook banned several prominent accounts promoting white nationalism on the platform on Thursday.
Accounts barred from Facebook, as well as its subsidiary Instagram, as part of the new enforcement include the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos and the anti-Muslim figurehead Laura Loomer. Jones was previously banned from Facebook but still had an account on Instagram, which was no longer live as of Thursday.
Weve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology, a Facebook spokesperson said. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.
Facebook also said it would remove accounts relating to Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam group, who has posted antisemitic material.
Critics say Facebook has not, in fact, always banned individuals engaging in violence and hate. The company has often grappled with controlling far-right hate speech on the platform in recent years. Figures like Jones, Loomer and Yiannopoulus were able to cultivate a huge reach using the platform, making Facebooks move insufficient, said Cristina Lpez G, the deputy director for extremism at Media Matters for America, a not-for-profit media watchdog.
This is a step in the right direction, and it shows exactly why Facebook needs to be thinking about enforcement in a more holistic way, she said. Facebook can help curb the spread of extremism, hate and bigotry that flourished on its platforms if it remains open to reforming enforcement measures.
The individualshave been banned from Facebook and Instagram under its policies against dangerous individuals and organizations. The company said it would continue its policy of banning accounts that praise or support these figures on the platform.
The bans highlight the arbitrary nature of Facebooks decisions to bar prominent individuals from posting on its services. The company acts as both judge and jury on who is allowed to host material on its network, with accounts often removed only following sustained criticism in the media.
However, in recent months, the company has become increasingly willing to issue outright bans against individuals deemed to spread hate speech in effect cutting many alt-right figures off from the social networks that allowed them to gain an audience in the first place.
The news was shared under embargo with a number of US news outlets before the bans actually went into effect, resulting in the bizarre sight of many of the figures using Instagram to complain that they were about to be removed from it.
Many of the accounts affected by Thursdays announcement had already been banned from other social media sites. For instance, pages relating to Infowars were removed from Facebook but until now the conspiracist news site had been allowed to maintain an account on sister service Instagram.
Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart News employee, had already been banned by Twitter and Facebook but the decision to remove his Instagram account means his only mainstream social media outlet will now be on YouTube.
The change in attitudes suggests Facebook is adopting a more consistent approach across all its platforms. The company has recently specifically banned white supremacist material from its service and has come under increased pressure to act against such content following the Christchurch terror attack, which was livestreamed on its network.
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