Bye bye, Alex Jones, Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, Paul Nehlen, and Louis Farrakhan


Facebook and Instagram have finally had enough bad PR from those wackaloons and has outright banned a host of bad actors. It’s a start. However, it doesn’t affect the structural problems in social media algorithms — they’re built around simple-minded mechanisms that don’t consider the quality of the content, but rely on who is linking to who, and counting the number of references as an indication of popularity. It’s an extravagant version of a sneaky online poll. So you still get fed bad information, even if they retroactively cut out the original source of the lies.

Simply by following Instagram’s suggestions, Russell was recommended 240 Instagram pages posting misinformation. Looking at one QAnon page resulted in suggestions for 12 more. Liking and engaging with even borderline-extremist content on the platform results in recommendations for more extreme content. Just last week, Instagram recommended that I follow Yiannopoulos and Jones after I liked and followed many right-wing meme pages. Russell also noted that more than 30 white-nationalist pages flagged to Facebook and Instagram last month are still up. “One would think that Instagram would bother to halfway try to clean this stuff up,” he tweeted, “but it’s all still there.”

Banning these extremist figures is a step toward stricter moderation of extremist views, but time and again, we’ve seen that the internet’s worst actors always find new ways to exploit platforms. For instance, after Instagram promised to ban anti-vaccine hashtags such as #vaccinescauseautism, anti-vaxxers simply developed new hashtags by changing a letter or adding a word.

The one good thing about cutting off these phonies at the knees is that it makes it far more difficult for them to directly profit from their lies — the lies still get out there, but InfoWars, for instance, has just lost a big chunk of advertising revenue, which we can hope will reduce their effectiveness at poisoning the discourse. It might also discourage the next guy with a get-rich-quick scheme based on selling conspiracy theories.

Comments

  1. psychomath says

    I can’t imagine how this can really be fought in the long term. It seems to me that the loss of gatekeepers in the form of newspaper publishers and television networks has resulted in people forming tribe-bubbles where they literally exist in separate media worlds. I was never a huge fan of those lost gatekeepers, being quite far to the left, but I also didn’t fully understand just how terrible people are at thinking. Shit is complicated, the elites have a vested interest in keeping everyone else divided, angry, and confused, and I just don’t see how to get to a positive future. It almost seems like the best we can do is to convince the elites to prevent the destruction of humanity for their own self-interest. The powers that be don’t seem to enjoy criticism, so maybe it is time to start begging and pleading.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    (purrs loudly, chews on bloody fragment of conspiracy-theorist tissue) ..by going at the $$$ they are figuratively going at the throat of these liars.

  3. AKron says

    If this trend continues you’ll be banned from social media soon for spreading hate toward religion.
    You will soon get a taste of the ban hammer you so freely wield here.
    I wish more people would understand why free speech is important, even speech they disagree with.

  4. gijoel says

    @3 Bullshit. Jones et al weren’t banned for holding different opinions. They were banned for repeatedly engaging in abusive behaviour. Behaviour that is very clearly violated those sites terms and condition. Alex Jones encouraged followers to abuse the grieving parents of Sandy Hook shooting victims. Milo abused women like Leslie Jones and other targets of gamergate. The others you can look up for yourself.

    As far as I’m aware PZ has never engaged in this types of abusive behaviour. He’s also copped a fair amount of scorn because he has rightly called out behavior by the above actors as abuse. But I guess FREEZE PEACH, is more important to you than stopping arseholes abusing others for fun and profit.

  5. vucodlak says

    @ Akron, #3
    And I wish more people would understand that allowing Nazis to openly recruit and spread hate is corrosive to all freedoms. Their right to “free speech” does not trump the right of the rest of us to not get murdered by white supremacists.

    Also? It’s super easy to avoid the banhammer here. Just don’t be a colossal asshole, and respect the host’s rules. If you go dragging your ass across someone else’s rug don’t be surprised when you get the boot.

  6. John Morales says

    psychomath @1,

    I can’t imagine how this can really be fought in the long term.

    Merely fight, rather than overcome? Heh.

    Anyway, I can: same as it is being fought now, incrementally: put pressure on media enterprises to either improve and enforce their acceptable use policies or lose profit, and regulate their corporate behaviour. (Boring, I know)

    It seems to me that the loss of gatekeepers in the form of newspaper publishers and television networks has resulted in people forming tribe-bubbles where they literally exist in separate media worlds.

    Separate issue. It is possible for there to be tribe-bubbles without their openly engaging in hate mentality.

  7. hemidactylus says

    Given Louis Farrakhan had some influence on Public Enemy I have had a long running interest in Nation of Islam and even weirder variants. Honorable Elijah was influenced by this guy:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace_Fard_Muhammad

    And Elijah’s son broke more mainstream, unlike Farrakhan:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warith_Deen_Mohammed

    And according to Leah Remini’s show there is a strange bedfellowship between NoI and Co$.

    But this:

    https://youtu.be/k6MlwT1lBk0

    and

    https://youtu.be/Kj9SeMZE_Yw

    So yeah! Fist pump. Because Chuck D.

  8. ck, the Irate Lump says

    AKron wrote:

    If this trend continues you’ll be banned from social media soon for spreading hate toward religion.
    You will soon get a taste of the ban hammer you so freely wield here.
    I wish more people would understand why free speech is important, even speech they disagree with.

    Uh huh. “soon”. It’s not like brigading, mass flagging and banning of trans folk, leftists and other kinds of dissidents isn’t already happening. But let’s bend over backwards to defend the scum who promote shit they know full well will result in violence for the sake of a high minded ideal that they love to only pay lip service to. I’m sure that will end well, too.

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