CNN questioned why Facebook allows InfoWars to run a page on their platform while the social media network attempts to crack down on “fake news,” in a recently published article.
In an article titled “Facebook touts fight on fake news, but struggles to explain why InfoWars isn’t banned,” CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports that Facebook officials had issues answering questions related to Alex Jones’ news site InfoWars. Specifically, during an event in the company’s Manhattan offices, officials were unable to explain why the site was allowed to operate a Facebook page while the company attempts to crack down on “fake news.”
Facebook reportedly showed a presentation which outlined their efforts to fight misinformation on the platform. This was presented by John Hegeman, the head of Facebook’s News Feed and product specialist for News Feed Sara Su. Darcy asked the two Facebook employees how Facebook could claim they were serious about tackling the issue of online misinformation and “fake news” if they allowed InfoWars to operate on their platform.
Hegeman allegedly replied that Facebook does not “take down false news,” further stating: “I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards.” Hegeman stated that InfoWars had, “not violated something that would result in them being taken down,” and 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.”
The CNN article further states: “While publishers may certainly have a different point of view, InfoWars is no ordinary publisher, and the content it produces does not just offer ‘different points of view.’ The media organization is notorious for spreading demonstrably false information and conspiracy theories on a host of issues, including suggesting that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax staged by child actors. Earlier this year, the outlet smeared student survivors of the Parkland shooting with baseless attacks, portraying them in one video as actors.”
When Darcy further pressed the Facebook employees about InfoWars, Su replied: “There’s a ton of stuff — conspiracy theories, misleading claims, cherry picking — that we know can be really problematic and it bugs me 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.”
In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson told Darcy that InfoWar “hit on a very real tension” at Facebook: “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,” the spokesperson stated. “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.”
Facebook publicly commented on Darcy’s article via Twitter, in a reply that says banning InfoWars and other pages on both the right and the left would be “contrary to the basic principles of free speech.”
We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news. We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.
— Facebook (@facebook) July 12, 2018
CNN calling for publishers of fake news or incorrect information could backfire on the news company, which is regularly accused of misrepresenting facts and is referred to as “very fake news” by the President. Breitbart News has extensively covered CNN’s fake claims such as CNN reporter Jim Acosta purposefully shouting a question at President Trump over a crowd of clapping and cheering onlookers from the back of a room in an attempt to imply that the President ignored members of the press when it would have been nearly impossible for the President to even hear Acosta.
Darcy himself is no stranger to conspiracy theories — publishing an article during his time at Campus Reform which reported that a well-known professor at Columbia University did not recall teaching former U.S. President Barack Obama, calling into question whether or not the former President had attended the university. Columbia University has openly stated that Obama did indeed attend the college while former roommates and class members have come forward to describe their time with him at the university.
So under CNN’s standard for InfoWars, could some of their own news pages and reporters be banned from the platform? InfoWars still operates on Facebook with nearly one million likes, but the website has previously faced demonetization and account deletion from platforms such as YouTube. InfoWars’ YouTube account was deleted shortly after CNN contacted advertisers to ask them why their ads were appearing beside InfoWars videos.