Jul 13, 2018

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."

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 691,867 — Total deaths: 32,988 — Total recoveries: 146,613.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 125,433 — Total deaths: 2,201 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record, bringing its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Cuomo: Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked people"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Sunday that President Donald Trump's unexpected Saturday announcement of a possible "short-term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut to curb the spread of the coronavirus "really panicked people."

Why it matters: Though Trump ruled out the mandatory quarantine later that day, Cuomo said people still called "all night long" asking about the comments and many likely fled the New York area — possibly spreading the virus further.

U.S. coronavirus updates: Fauci suggests death toll could top 100,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN Sunday that models suggest COVID-19 will infect millions of Americans and could kill 100,000–200,000, though he stressed that the projections are "such a moving target."

The big picture: With more than 121,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, reported influxes of cases on Saturday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health