Facebook won't ban Infowars in its fake-news purge — a site that says 9/11 was staged and the moon landing was fake

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; #LoveRandom/YouTube; Samantha Lee/Business InsiderMark Zuckerberg and Alex Jones.
  • Facebook drew scrutiny Wednesday for allowing the conspiracy-theory site Infowars to have a page on its platform.
  • At a press event in which it emphasised its crackdown on misinformation and so-called fake news, it was pressed by CNN why Infowars still had a presence.
  • Well known for pushing conspiracy theories, Infowars has claimed that Sandy Hook was a hoax, the moon landings were fake, and 9/11 was a so-called false flag.
  • Facebook suggested Infowars published “analysis” and said banning pages would erode freedom of speech.

Facebook has drawn scrutiny over the fact it allows the conspiracy-theory website Infowars to operate a page on its platform just as the social network is promoting its efforts in dealing with intentionally false or misleading news.

After giving a presentation to US media outlets on Wednesday about its efforts to combat misinformation, Facebook took questions from reporters. CNN’s Oliver Darcy asked how Facebook could be serious about tackling so-called fake news if it allowed Infowars to operate on its platform.

John Hegeman, the head of Facebook’s News Feed, reportedly responded that Facebook did not “take down false news.”

The phrase “fake news” has seen its meaning blur over time. Around 2016 it was widely used to describe false or misleading news designed to influence social-media users politically or to gain advertising dollars, but President Donald Trump has since popularised it as a phrase to dismiss coverage he doesn’t like or to discredit accidental mistakes made by news organisations.

Infowars, whose Facebook page has almost 1 million followers, is known for pushing conspiracy theories on its site and on YouTube. Its host Alex Jones has claimed that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax with actors. The outlet has also said 9/11 was a so-called false flag and that the moon landings were faked. Jones also promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, for which he apologised after being threatened with lawsuits.

“I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards,” Hegeman said, saying Infowars had not incurred any violations that would result in its removal from Facebook. “I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. And different publishers have very different points of view.”

When Hegeman’s comments drew criticism from journalists, Facebook followed up with a series of posts on Twitter defending its position. It suggested that Infowars pushed out “analysis” and suggested it was choosing to target specific demonstrably false claims rather than publishers that repeatedly make such claims.

This isn’t the first time Infowars has proved a conundrum for social-media companies. A group of brands including Nike suspended their advertising on YouTube after they discovered their ads were being run alongside Infowars’ channels.

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