CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — Social media giant Facebook has taken steps to ban controversial leader Minister Louis Farrakhan and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its site.
Also announced, Facebook is banning Jones’ InfoWars site along with Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Nehlen, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer.
In statement, Facebook said it is in the process of removing Farrakhan and what it calls representations of the individuals and their entities.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
Facebook previously suspended Jones from its flagship service temporarily; this suspension is permanent and includes Instagram.
Facebook says the newly banned accounts violated its policy against dangerous individuals and organizations. The company says it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology.
For years, social media companies have been under pressure from civil rights groups to clamp down on hate speech on their services. Following the deadly white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, South Carolina, in 2017, Google, Facebook and PayPal began banishing extremist groups and individuals who identified as or supported white supremacists.
A year later, widespread bans of Jones and Infowars reflected a more aggressive enforcement of policies against hate speech. But Facebook instituted only a 30-day suspension (though Twitter banned him permanently).
It is not clear what events led to Thursday’s announcement. In a statement, Facebook merely said, “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
Facebook has been under heavy pressure to rid its service of hate and extremist content. Last month, it extended its ban on hate speech to prohibit the promotion and support of white nationalism and white separatism. It had previously allowed such material even though it has long banned white supremacists.
Asked to comment on the bans, Yiannopoulos emailed only “You’re next.”
Jones reacted angrily Thursday during a live stream of his show on his Infowars website.
“They didn’t just ban me. They just defamed us. Why did Zuckerberg even do this?” Jones said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Jones called himself a victim of “racketeering” by “cartels.”
“There’s a new world now, man, where they’re banning everybody and then they tell Congress nobody is getting banned,” he said.
Watson, meanwhile, tweeted that he was not given a reason and that he “broke none of their rules.”
“Hopefully, other prominent conservatives will speak out about me being banned, knowing that they are next if we don’t pressure the Trump administration to take action,” he wrote.
Back in 2018, social media site Twitter banned Jones because of his tweets. “We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations,” the company said in a tweet.
Earlier Thursday, Farrakhan’s Facebook page, which has more than a million followers, was still up.
But as of 2:00 p.m. it was gone.
The site for “The Final Call” newspaper, the official paper for the Nation of Islam, was still up. So is the page for Alex Jones Podcasts.
The Facebook site for the Nation of Islam has not been taken down. Farrakhan’s Twitter account and the site for the Nation of Islam are still up.
Father Michael Pfleger of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church expressed his outrage over the ban, criticizing Facebook’s CEO for “double standards.”
CBS 2 reached out to the Nation of Islam, based in Chicago, and Minister Farrakhan for comment. They have yet to respond.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.