Facebook says it won't ban conspiracy theory posters

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is drawing fire for a post defending its decision not to ban InfoWars and other entities that repeatedly post debunked conspiracy theories.

Why it matters: Facebook has promised to boost the information quality on its social network. It has also been struggling to find more favor with conservative activists and groups who accuse it of bias against them.

What they're saying:

  • The New York Times' Kevin Roose: "I just don’t understand your position. In February, you called crisis actor hoaxes 'abhorrent' and said you would remove them. But now you’re saying they shouldn’t be removed, just demoted?"
  • Facebook's Twitter response: "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....We just don’t think banning Pages for sharing conspiracy theories or false news is the right way to go."
  • BuzzFeed's Mat Honan: "The Facebook comments and tweets are either astoundingly naive or cynical. Either way, remarkable how out of touch they are after what happened on their watch over the past two years."
  • Plenty of people also pointed to Facebook's current ad campaign, which criticizes the scourge of "fake news," as well as to past company statements pledging to remove such posts. "Your ads literally say fake news is not your friend. Which is it?" wrote one commenter.

Our thought bubble: There's a case to be made for Facebook to use its algorithms to demote, rather than ban, low-quality content. However, critics say there should be some point at which content is removed entirely, or the propagation of misinformation never ends.

The bottom line: Controversies like this latest one around InfoWars show just how difficult it is for Facebook to thread the needle between fighting misinformation and placating critics who cry "censorship."

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