In another case of “wow, really?”, Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan was officially banned from Facebook and Instagram on Thursday. Though the site also banned right-winged extremists as well, the move left it unclear whether Facebook was a place where Black people can comment on racism and not be punished for it.
Facebook announced that it was removing the accounts of several high profile figures for hate speech. This list not only included Farrakhan, but also the likes of conservative conspiracy theorist Alex Jones along with his website Infowars and right-wing personalities Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer. Meanwhile, the Facebook account of the president, who has routinely used the social media platform for everything from cyberbullying to inciting violence against sitting member of Congress, remained active.
According to the Associated Press, Facebook said the newly banned accounts violated its policy against so-called dangerous individuals and organizations. Facebook and other social media organizations have faced intense pressure to buckle down on hate speech on their platforms.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
The spokesperson went on to describe the “extensive” process, which involves several factors, which include whether the person or organization has ever called for violence against individuals based on race, ethnicity, or national origin; whether the person has been identified with a hateful ideology; whether they use hate speech or slurs in their about section on their social media profiles; and whether they have had pages or groups removed from Facebook for violating hate speech rules.
Prior to these high-profile bans, there were reports that Black activists have gotten banned or had posts removed for their commentary on racism, which they called “getting Zucked.” USA Today reported that Black Lives Matter organizer Tanya Faison had a post deleted, but the social media giant later apologized and reversed its decision after being contacted by the news outlet.
“Black people are punished on Facebook for speaking directly to the racism we have experienced,” Natasha Marin, a Seattle black anti-racism consultant and conceptual artist told USA Today on April 24. Marin was banned for three days for posting a racist message she received. “Facebook is also a place that has allowed things like death threats against me and my children,” she added.