Facebook today removed Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Infowars from Facebook and Instagram, saying their accounts violated its policies against dangerous individuals and organizations. They will be prohibited from creating new accounts, although Facebook and Instagram users will continue to be able to create posts praising them and their viewpoints, the company said.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” the company said 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.”
Infowars founder Jones was suspended from Facebook last year under rules against bullying and hate speech. In February, the company removed another 22 pages associated with him and his businesses. Jones has continuously promoted fringe conspiracy theories, including baseless arguments that the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre never happened. His followers have stalked and harassed families of the victims, requiring them to move frequently and live in hiding.
Watson is an editor at Infowars and associate of Jones. Farrakhan is the leader of the Nation of Islam and is known for making inflammatory anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. Nehlen is a white supremacist politician who had previously been banned from Twitter. Yiannopoulos is a far-right provocateur who was banned from Twitter after inspiring a wave of racist abuse. Loomer is a far-right activist who recently called Islam “a cancer on humanity” on her Instagram story. (Instagram removed the post.)
Facebook did not disclose all of the incidents that led to the accounts’ removal, saying that it had made the decisions following a period of review. The decision took into account the group’s behavior both on and offline, the company said. Factors for the removal included engaging in acts of hate or violence; calling for or carrying out acts of violence rooted in racial or ethnic prejudice; describing themselves as the follower of a hateful ideology; or using hate speech or slurs in their profiles. Having pages or groups removed previously can also lead to account removal, Facebook said.
But the company did point to some of the actions leading up to the accounts’ removal:
- First in December and again in February, Jones appeared in videos with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. Facebook has designated McInnes as a hate figure.
- Yiannopoulos publicly praised McInnes and British far-right activist Tommy Robinson, who Facebook has designated as a hate figure.
- Loomer appeared with McInnes in December, and more recently declared her support for far-right activist Faith Goldy, who was banned after posting racist videos to her account.
Facebook’s move comes amid a wave of far-right violence over the past year that has included shootings in Pittsburgh; Christchurch, New Zealand; and Poway, CA. In the latter two cases, the alleged shooters announced their attentions on the hate forum 8chan and then used Facebook Live to broadcast their attacks. (The Poway shooter accidentally set his stream to private.) Facebook has come under increasing pressure to address the spread of hate speech on its platform, and to remove violent terrorist content created by murderers and their sympathizers.
Facebook began removing the accounts at 1:30P ET on Thursday, and some of them were still up at press time.
Update, 2:21PM: Added additional context on why some accounts were banned and noted that some pages were still available.