The world’s largest social media network has banned what it called “dangerous individuals” who are known to disseminate hate speech.
Facebook announced on Thursday that individuals including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos, and organizations and media outlets including Jones’ Infowars from its platform after years of public pressure to crack down on hate speech. Far-right personalities including neo–Nazi congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, UK conspiracy radio host Paul Joseph Watson and Canadian conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer were also banned.
The ban will apply to Instagram as well, which is owned by Facebook. Jones and Infowars had been banned from Facebook but were allowed to continue posting on Instagram until now.
“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.”
Facebook told CNN that the company goes through a long process and considers factors including whether or not the person or group considered for a ban 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.
The move was applauded by anti-hate groups, although the Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s premier bigotry watchdog organization, said more needs to be done. “We know that there are still white supremacists and other extremist figures who are actively using both platforms to spread their hatred and bigotry,” SPLC senior research analyst Keegan Hankes told the Associated Press.
Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook executive and an Internet policy expert at Harvard, told the AP that Facebook is merely complying with existing company policy.
“There will always be more purveyors of hate speech that try to come on these platforms,” Ghosh said. “Will advocates have to push year after year just to get (a handful of) individuals off? At this rate it seems likely. And this doesn’t address the problem of what happens at the margins.”
Some of the banned individuals said Facebook’s actions were more befitting of a dictatorship than a free society. Jones called himself a victim of “racketeering” by “cartels.”
“They didn’t just ban me. They just defamed us. Why did Zuckerberg even do this?” Jones said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Watson took to Twitter to express his anger at the decision in a series of posts. “Merely appearing in a video or photo with someone Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t like is now enough to get you banned by Facebook,” he said in one tweet. “This is the Communist Chinese social credit system but instead controlled by giant corporations with more power than entire countries.”
Yiannopoulos responded to an AP request for comment with two words: “You’re next.”