Facebook finally did it. After months and months of criticism, the social network finally decided to enforce its own rules and ban several far-right provocateurs and other public figures it considers “dangerous.”
The move affected InfoWars host Alex Jones (who was previously barred from Facebook, but had remained on Instagram), Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer among others, as well as groups and events associated with them.
The bans should have been good news for Facebook critics, who have long questioned why these individuals were still allowed to use Facebook and Instagram. Still, the company managed to bungle the situation.
Facebook apparently pre-briefed several outlets on its decision ahead of time — CNN, The Atlantic, and The Verge all published stories on the bans around the same time. That’s not necessarily unusual, as Facebook often pre-briefs members of the media about its decisions ahead of time. What is unusual is that Facebook had not finished removing all of the accounts in question at the time stories about their bans began publishing.
So at the moment news outlets started reporting the bans, other reporters quickly pointed out that some of these accounts, in fact, remained online. Making matter worse, Yiannopoulos and Loomer were actually able to alert their Instagram followers about their impending bans and direct them to other platforms. The posts were viewed hundreds of times before Facebook managed to take the accounts down.
Facebook’s decision to share the news it’s banning far-right figures under an embargo with news outlets is surreal. Surely if you’re worried these accounts are promoting “violence and hate” you want to take action ASAP — not wait until you’ve arranged a PR opportunity.
— Rob Price (@robaeprice) May 2, 2019
Meanwhile on Facebook, a page called “InfoWars is Back” began streaming a live feed of the show, which has been banned since last year, in which Jones excoriated Zuckerberg for his company’s actions. The stream and Facebook page remained up for well over an hour before it was removed.
A source familiar with matter said the delay in removing the accounts was unintentional and that the work to do so took a few hours. That may be true, but it raises questions about why it opted to pre-brief reporters on its actions before it had actually done the work necessary to complete them.
For a company that’s already being criticized for taking too long to deal with public figures who routinely engage in hate speech and targeted harassment, it doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence in their ability to police their platform effectively.