Offensive Speech

Facebook Bans Alex Jones and Other Controversial Figures for Promoting Hate Speech and Violence

Alex Jones of Infowars walks through the halls of the U.S. Senate’s Dirksen Senate office building in Washington, D.C. September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Facebook is banning some controversial, well-known figures for violating the social media giant’s policies on hate speech and promoting violence.

The list includes Sandy Hook-denier Alex Jones, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, conspiracy theorists Laura Loomer and Paul John Watson, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who shares anti-Semitic views, and Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who ran for Congress in 2018.

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“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook representative said Thursday 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.”

The ban includes their individual Facebook accounts, fan pages, and groups affiliated with them. They are also banned from Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.

Jones, who has spread his conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school mass shooting on his InfoWars site, was temporarily banned on Facebook last year. His official fan page was also banned, but Jones was allowed to keep his personal account.

The new prohibition makes all of Jones’ temporary bans permanent, bans Jones from having a personal Facebook account, and extends the ban more broadly to fan pages and videos that promote InfoWars.

According to Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, a nonprofit that monitors conservative misinformation online, recent mass shootings and other acts of violence caused by online hate speech prompted Facebook to finally take action.

“The reality is, people are getting killed. There are mass shootings and mass murders that are clearly being connected to ideas like white genocide, which are fueling radicalization,” Carusone told The Washington Post. “The conditions have changed. When you have these massive catalyzing moments that are connected to real-life consequences, it puts pressure on Facebook and others to look in the mirror.”

Facebook isn’t the first social media platform to ban some of these polarizing figures. In recent years, Twitter has temporarily or permanently banned Jones, Loomer, Nehlen, and Yiannopoulos for their inflammatory content.

Los Angeles Times The Washington Post Media Matters