InfoWars won’t be banned from the social network


Since the 2016 presidential election, Facebook repeatedly has said it is committed to combating false news and misinformation. But this week, Facebook may have shot itself in the foot.

Facebook invited a group of journalists to a presentation on how the social network is combating fake news, according to CNN. But when pressed about why Facebook won’t take down InfoWars, an extreme right-wing media outlet that peddles false conspiracy theories, Facebook said InfoWars did not violate its community standards and highlighted the company’s commitment to free speech.

On Thursday, Facebook — on Twitter — clarified its stance about why it will not remove InfoWars from its platforms, saying there are outlets on both ends of the political spectrum producing what some may consider fake news.

“We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news,” tweeted Facebook. “We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.”

InfoWars propagated some of the biggest false conspiracy theories in the United States in recent years, ranging from the notion that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax starring child actors, to alleging a pizza shop in Washington, D.C. secretly ran a Democrat-led child sex ring. In recent months, InfoWars sought to discredit the Parkland High School survivors and activists as actors and suggested that the Democrats were going to launch a civil war on July 4th.

Facebook said that while InfoWars did not violate its community standards by “sharing fake news” and thus will not be banned, it implemented controls that limit the visibility of posts from the outlet. Facebook demonetizes and demotes Pages reported by its users and labeled fake by its human fact-checkers, and the demoted Pages can lose up to 80 percent of traffic in future posts, said Facebook in a separate tweet on Thursday.

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Facebook, however, does remove content which promotes graphic violence, adult nudity and sexual activity, terrorist propaganda and hate speech as violations of its community standards. In May, Facebook released its first-ever transparency report and said it removed more than 30 million posts that violated its standards.

Facebook also took actions to curb the proliferation of fake news. In June, Facebook ended its “trending” news section in the News Feed.

However, during the presentation, Facebook’s head of the News Feed, John Hegeman, maintained the company did not ban InfoWars because it wanted the social network to be “a place where different people can have a voice,” according to CNN.

Facebook’s answers from Wednesday’s presentation and via Twitter on Thursday left many expressing dismay and anger, including the Bay Area’s Ellen Pao, and Christopher Wylie — the man who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica.





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