Facebook has “unpublished” four pages belonging to InfoWars in a move that could financially devastate the conspiracy theory empire. Facebook is avoiding the word “ban”, since InfoWars can appeal the decision, unlike Apple’s recent move to ban InfoWars podcasts, something that’s understood to be permanent.
Facebook “unpublished” the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page, which had together racked up millions of fans. Paul Joseph Watson, a British contributor to the InfoWars misinformation sites, has called the move a permanent ban, directly contradicting claims by Facebook that it’s a temporary decision.
What does it mean to “unpublish” a page from Facebook? Is it like deleting the pages? Not exactly. Facebook’s explanation, published this morning, makes it clear that InfoWars has the right to appeal the decision and could get its pages reinstated:
We offer Pages the opportunity to appeal in case we made a mistake. So our first step is to “unpublish” the Page so that it is no longer available on Facebook. If they don’t appeal or their appeal fails, we remove the Page.
The company also makes it clear that it’s acting on its community standards, “which cover things like hate speech that attacks or dehumanizes others”. Apple also cited “hate speech” when it banned InfoWars podcasts yesterday.
The social media company says that Alex Jones has used graphic violence as well as “dehumanising language” in violation of its hate speech policies. Facebook continues:
As a result of reports we received, last week, we removed four videos on four Facebook Pages for violating our hate speech and bullying policies. These pages were the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page. In addition, one of the admins of these Pages – Alex Jones – was placed in a 30-day block for his role in posting violating content to these Pages.
Since then, more content from the same Pages has been reported to us — upon review, we have taken it down for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanising language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.
All four Pages have been unpublished for repeated violations of Community Standards and accumulating too many strikes. While much of the discussion around Infowars has been related to false news, which is a serious issue that we are working to address by demoting links marked wrong by fact checkers and suggesting additional content, none of the violations that spurred today’s removals were related to this.
Jones, who reportedly makes as much as $US18 million ($24 million) a year selling diet supplements on his website, could face a huge shortfall in his viewership if the Facebook decision becomes permanent. Without Apple and Facebook, Jones could see his empire begin to crumble, despite still being present on platforms such as Twitter, where he’s amassed over 820,000 followers.
Gizmodo reached out to Facebook and InfoWars for comment about the decision to “unpublish” the pages but had not heard back at time of writing.