Is Facebook right to ban extremist right wingers?

In light of the recent decision made by Facebook regarding the ban of controversial far-right figures, due to their breach of the company’s policies on hate speech and promotion of violence, Yair Cohen was interviewed recently by LBC’s Eddie Mair and was asked what his thoughts were about the ban. 

Yair: ‘Difficult question because there is an increasing communality between the extreme left and extreme right throughout the world. Antisemitism is one of the thickest common threads that link those two extremes. Facebook, which is an organisation, known for lack of political diversity, is finding it very difficult to recognise that the far left is as bad as the far right. It therefore allows, by way of example, antisemitism to be expressed almost freely by left wing activists whilst at the same time excluding from its platforms right wing activist who express similar views.

But this does not stop with anti-Semitism. Incitement to murder, terrorism and anarchy has always been welcomed on Facebook platforms so long as it came from left wing corners. The so call Arab spring, and the so called Islamic State had all used freely – Facebook platforms to promote left wing ideologies which were often consistent with those of the far right.

Unfortunately, a hugely powerful left wing social media platform, banning free expression on one side of the spectrum only, is likely to result in disgruntlement and discontent among people who hold right wing views and increase the sense of unfairness and bias which is already held by those people.

It would have been much better if Facebook was able to take a more balanced approach but I’m afraid it can’t.

Why did Facebook change its mind since it said last year it wouldn’t ban free speech?

It is possible that Facebook wants to be seen as capable of self-policing following the recent White Paper on Self Harm. The White Paper is viewed as pretty much the last warning social media companies are receiving before they become the subject of an external regulator. Facebook might view the far right as an easy target, the ban of which it believes, falls within a consensus. I think Facebook is wrong here. 

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