CNN reporter Oliver Darcy, at a Facebook event with reporters on fake news held in New York on Wednesday, repeatedly demanded that Facebook explain why Infowars has not been banned from the site.
CNN’s push to ban Infowars was promoted by CNN and executives and reporters online.
CNN tried in February to get YouTube to ban Infowars.
CNN published Darcy’s report on his effort get Infowars banned by Facebook with the headline, Facebook touts fight on fake news, but struggles to explain why InfoWars isn’t banned.
When asked by this reporter how the company could claim it was serious about tackling the problem of misinformation online while simultaneously allowing InfoWars to maintain a page with nearly one million followers on its website, Hegeman said that the company does not “take down false news.”
“I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards,” Hegeman said, explaining that InfoWars has “not violated something that would result in them being taken down.”
Hegeman added, “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.”
…Pressed for more answers on its position on InfoWars, Su said at the event that Facebook has thus far chosen to focus on tackling posts on its platform that can be proven beyond a doubt to be demonstrably false.
“There’s a ton of stuff — conspiracy theories, misleading claims, cherry picking — that we know can be really problematic and it bugs me too,” Su said. “But we need to figure out a way to really define that in a clear way, and then figure out what our policy and our product positions are about that.”
Emailed for any additional comment after the event, Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensso said questions about InfoWars hit “on a very real tension” at the social media company.
“We work hard to find the right balance between encouraging free expression and promoting a safe and authentic community, and we believe that down-ranking inauthentic content strikes that balance,” she said. “In other words, we allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed.”
Svensso added, “That said: while sharing fake news doesn’t violate our Community Standards set of policies, we do have strategies in place to deal with actors who repeatedly share false news. If content from a Page or domain is repeatedly given a ‘false’ rating from our third-party fact-checkers … we remove their monetization and advertising privileges to cut off financial incentives, and dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”
Buzzfeed’s Davey Alba posted an after-the-fact ‘live tweet’ of the press event. Open the first tweet to view the whole thread. Below is Alba’s report on Darcy’s questions.
“.@oliverdarcy going IN: If FB is devoted to fighting false news, how does Infowars have an account on your site?
HEGEMAN: It’s true that we take down things that are calling for violence/hate speech but I guess just for being false, that doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”
“HEGEMAN: Part of the fundamental thing here is we created FB to be a place where ppl can have different points. Diff publishers have diff POVs. Given the extent to which ppl rely on FB to communicate & express things, we think that’s a very impt & serious responsibility as well.”
“.@oliverdarcy: I cant understand how FB can say we’re committed to fighting fake news but that @RealAlexJones @infowars can profit off your platform.
SU: …It bugs me too. We need to define that in a clear, fair way & figure out how our policies apply. We have a long way to go.”
“HEGEMAN 1/2: A lot of it comes down to…we dont take down things just for being false because we feel there’s this commitment to be in a place where people can post their POV. Key thing to remember is also a lot of what is uniquely valuable about FB to publishers is distribution.”
“HEGEMAN 2/2: …I understand you probably disagree with aspects of what we’re doing here. But I think that’s probably the most important thing to focus on (in terms of impact in the world); how many people are seeing things & how much distribution it’s getting.
CNN Executive Producer David P. Gelles promoted Darcy’s call to ban Infowars.
Numerous requests for comment from CNN by this writer on Twitter were not responded to as of publication.
“Do media outlets really want to go down this road? Will you be next calling on bookstores to ban books and newspapers you don’t like? Or is this a pretext to get Fox News banned next?”
“Still looking for an answer. What books does CNN want banned by bookstores? What newspapers? Besides Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who else does CNN want banned?”
“Still waiting for CNN to answer: What books should be banned? What newspapers? Besides Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who else should be banned that you don’t like?”
“I don’t care for Infowars, but it’s a real site, operated by a real person whose opinions on the news have a broad audience. Funny how liberals have abandoned free speech for progressive totalitarianism. Still waiting for CNN on which books, newspapers they want banned/burned?”