Facebook clamps down on hate speech, bans extremist figures

Facebook clamps down on hate speech, bans extremist figures
Photo credit: Getty Images.

Facebook Inc says it is banning American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and other controversial US political personalities for violating the social media company's policies on "dangerous individuals and organisations".

Most of the individuals whose accounts are being removed are popular figures on the far right, including commentators Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer and Paul Joseph Watson.

Facebook also said it is banning Paul Nehlen, an avowed white supremacist who ran for Congress in 2018, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has preached black separatism and referred to Jews as "termites".

The company will remove any accounts, pages, groups and events associated with the banned individuals, both on its core social network and its photo-sharing app Instagram. It says it bans any users who promote violence or hate.

However, Facebook stopped short of prohibiting other users from praising or supporting the banned individuals on its platforms, as it has done for militant groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the past.

Facebook announced the ban before removing the affected accounts, giving the account owners time to redirect their thousands of followers to other channels before the accounts disappeared.

Infowars, the website run by Jones, posted a response saying that the ban "amounts to editorial control over user content - and a donation in kind to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate".

Apple Inc, Google parent Alphabet Inc and Twitter also banned Infowars last year.

The companies have faced backlash over their suspensions of accounts from conservatives, who accuse them of censorship and bias. Civil rights groups say social media giants have failed to confront extremism.

Facebook says it enforces its rules without prejudice. It tightened those policies further last month with a decision to ban praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism.

Reuters. 

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