Two weeks ago, CNN’s Oliver Darcy put a question to Facebook executives during an event in New York: how can Facebook say it’s serious about fighting misinformation while also allowing the notorious conspiracy site Infowars to host a page there, where it has collected nearly 1 million followers? The tension Darcy identified wasn’t new. But it crystallized the a contradiction at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to clean up its platform. And we’ve been talking about it ever since.
Late Thursday night, Facebook took its first enforcement action against Jones since the current debate started. The company removed four videos that were posted to the pages of Alex Jones, Infowars’ founder and chief personality, and Infowars itself. Jones, who had violated Facebook’s community guidelines before, received a 30-day ban. Infowars’ page got off with a warning, although Facebook took the unusual step of saying the page is “close” to being unpublished.
The move came a day after YouTube issued a strike against Jones’ channel, after removing four videos itself. (Facebook won’t say which videos it removed, but the rationale it used to remove them — attacks on someone based on their religious affiliation or gender identity, and showing physical violence — suggests they are the same ones YouTube removed.)
These posts were removed for hate speech and violence, not misinformation. It’s likely Facebook would have removed them even without the extra attention on Infowars. But Jones’ behavior in the wake of recent enforcement actions shows how easily bad actors can skirt rules that were…