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Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened to soften Alex Jones’ Facebook ban, a report claims

Summary List PlacementFacebook's banning of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was less strict than employees wanted it to be, according to a new report from BuzzFeed. Facebook announced in May 2019 that it was banning a group of right-wing conspiracy theorists, including Jones. Sources told BuzzFeed that Facebook's strategic response team...

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Summary List Placement

Facebook’s banning of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was less strict than employees wanted it to be, according to a new report from BuzzFeed.

Facebook announced in May 2019 that it was banning a group of right-wing conspiracy theorists, including Jones. Sources told BuzzFeed that Facebook’s strategic response team recommended not only banning Jones himself, but removing any content that praised or expressed support for his ideas.

But once this recommendation was run up to Zuckerberg, he decided on a less comprehensive ban, effectively deviating from company policy, the sources said.

“Zuckerberg basically took the decision that he did not want to use this policy against Jones because he did not personally think he was a hate figure,” a former Facebook policy employee told BuzzFeed.

Jones has promoted a host of conspiracy theories, including that 9/11 was a government orchestrated false-flag operation. He has also said the Sandy Hook school shooting was a “hoax” and the children killed were actors. The Washington Post reported Saturday that Jones was among a group of right-wing figures under investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department for possible ties to the Capitol riot on January 6.

Employees who had spent time constructing Facebook’s policies on hate speech and misinformation found Zuckerberg’s intervention frustrating, BuzzFeed reported.

“That was the first time I experienced having to create a new category of policy to fit what Zuckerberg wanted. It’s somewhat demoralizing when we have established a policy and it’s gone through rigorous cycles. Like, what the fuck is that for?” A former Facebook policy employee said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the report, but a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed that “Mark called for a more nuanced policy and enforcement strategy” on the Jones decision.

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Current and former employees said Zuckerberg’s decision set the tone for Facebook’s approach to moderating right-wing personalities. Broadly, BuzzFeed’s report detailed complaints from current and former employees that Facebook allowed right-wing figures to flout its content moderation policies for fear that if it took action against them, it would make the company a target for accusations of anti-conservative bias

In particular, the report honed in on internal worries that Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, had an outsized impact on policy decisions, and overruled warnings from the company’s experts on the spread of hateful and misinformative content on Facebook.

This isn’t the first time employee concerns about Kaplan have surfaced. In a June company meeting, the details of which were obtained by the Verge, a question that was upvoted by employees read: “Many people feel that Joel Kaplan has too much power over our decisions. Can we get him on a Q&A to learn more about his role, influence, and beliefs?”

Kaplan, who was an advisor to President George W. Bush, also provoked an internal company backlash when he publicly appeared at Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct hearing in 2018.

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