Louis Farrakhan: Conservatives Hit Back at Washington Post's 'Far-Right' Designation, Facebook Bans Nation of Islam Leader

In the ongoing tug of war between Facebook and users who push the limits of the social network's content policies, Thursday's development was a shot across the bow. Avatars of the far-right movement and certain anti-Semitic figures were summarily banned from the platform, along with a number of those individuals' affiliated pages and causes.

Among the people Facebook identified as in violation of their policy against hate speech, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was removed for anti-Semitic comments he made last year at a rally in Detroit. Farrakhan referred to Jews as termites and doubled down on this characterization by posting a clip of his speech on Twitter, which declined to ban him from the platform after his tweet drew backlash.

Far-right figures such as Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer were also removed from the platform.

In a statement to Newsweek, Facebook said that they "always [ban] individuals or organizations that proclaim a violent or hateful mission… regardless of ideology or motivation." The company says it considers several factors when deciding to ban someone from using its platform, including whether or not they've directly carried out violent acts of bias; whether they describe themselves as followers of a hateful ideology (such as Paul Nehlen, a self-described "pro-White Christian" who unsuccessfully tried to capture Paul Ryan's Wisconsin district several times); and whether they've previously had material removed for violating the company's policies against hate speech.

Facebook will still allow its regular users to post praise and support of the people they removed as long as the banned individual did not issue calls to violence and did not formally belong to a hate group.

Thursday's actions sparked controversy amongst Republican political figures, who have long stood by the inaccurate claim that social networks systemically target and shadow ban conservative users. The GOP used Facebook's decision to pounce on the ensuing media coverage, which they often complain conflates many different actors in the political ecosystem into a generic "right-wing" moniker. (The Economist was roundly criticized recently when it ran a profile of Ben Shapiro, describing him as "alt-right," even though that contingent of the right-wing movement lambasts him regularly.)

Republican rapid response director Steve Guest called the Washington Post's characterization of Farrakhan as far-right "ridiculous." The Post has since issued a correction. Guest did not contest the paper's description of notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones as "far-right," however. A representative for the Post would not elaborate on the paper's initial decision to cast Farrakhan as far-right.

Louis Farrakhan is a controversial figure who has a sordid history of anti-Semitic remarks. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Farrakhan "routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power." He is largely marginalized among mainstream political figures in both parties, though he retains a sizeable following from his pulpit in Chicago.

Farrakhan's lingering connections to prominent Democratic individuals have drawn scrutiny as of late. In 2018, he delivered a speech in Chicago assailing "the powerful Jews [who] are my enemy." He added, "when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door." His comments about Jews are well-publicized and extend back decades into the past. Tamika Mallory, co-chair of the Women's March, was in attendance at the Chicago speech. In 2017, she posed with the Nation of Islam leader for a post on Instagram. "Thank God this man is still alive and doing well," Mallory wrote.

Then-State Senator Barack Obama posed for a photograph with Farrakhan in 2005 at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting. Obama has since disavowed any connection to Farrakhan, saying that he "did not solicit his support."

Another co-chair of the Women's March, Linda Sarsour, has alternately affiliated herself with and distanced herself from Farrakhan. She spoke in 2015 at a rally in Washington D.C. led by the minister, though she has also written that "Minister Farrakhan has said hateful and hurtful things and that he does not align with [the] Unity Principles of the Women's March."

Louis Farrakhan: Conservatives Hit Back at Washington Post's 'Far-Right' Designation, Facebook Bans Nation of Islam Leader | Tech & Science