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Facebook Bans Several Controversial Users From Its Platform

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The story right now is about Facebook and who does and does not get to be on that platform. According to Facebook, there is a new list of people who cannot. And that includes right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Facebook has banned them because they are, quote, "dangerous individuals." That's according to Facebook. We should mention that Facebook is a financial supporter of NPR.

And this move comes as the social media giant and other social media companies face withering criticism for allowing hate speech and false information to spread and influence their users, especially in the run-up, obviously, to the 2016 elections. Paris Martineau covers social media and Internet culture for Wired magazine and joins us from our studios in New York.

PARIS MARTINEAU: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.

MARTIN: Hi, Paris. So exactly who are we talking about? Who was banned?

MARTINEAU: Yeah. So on Thursday afternoon, Facebook banned six high-profile extremists and one conspiracy theorist site. That includes inflammatory figureheads in the far right like Laura Loomer, Infowars' Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, as well as white supremacist Paul Nehlen and radical Muslim preacher Louis Farrakhan.

MARTIN: So President Trump and other conservatives have accused various social media companies for censoring right-wing opinions. Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Louis Farrakhan - they've been around for a long time. So why is Facebook doing this now?

MARTINEAU: So a Facebook spokesperson told me the company has always banned individuals and organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. But the people and organization banned Thursday were just as extreme and peddled just as much misinformation and hate a year ago as they did Thursday.

MARTIN: What's been the fallout from this?

MARTINEAU: The fallout has largely been the people banned protesting their ban. There was a bit of a snafu in the fact that Facebook kind of ceded a number of media outlets on Thursday afternoon with this story in advance, then struggled to actually take down the accounts at the time the media outlets published the story, allowing these extremist figureheads to publish on their soon-to-be-banned Instagram accounts - follow me on the other platform.

MARTIN: So is this - I mean, is this setting a precedent? Are we going to see Facebook continue to ban accounts? And who makes those decisions?

MARTINEAU: Those are all great questions. I think that Facebook is, like Facebook often does, going to do whatever it wants. And it'll be interesting to see how it continues to apply this going forward, whether it'll stick with it.

MARTIN: OK. Lots of questions still. Paris Martineau, social media reporter at Wired. Thanks, we appreciate it.

MARTINEAU: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.