New reports are suggesting that Facebook is now banning accounts based on personal interactions and offline behavior. Facebook said these were two of the metrics it used when deciding to ban Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Infowars host Alex Jones, Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson, independent journalist Laura Loomer, and political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos from its platform.
According to The Washington Post, the decision to ban Jones, Loomer, and Yiannopoulos was partially related to their interactions with political commentator Gavin McInnes and his designation by Facebook as a “hate figure.” The Washington Post suggests that Jones hosting McInnes on Infowars, Yiannopoulos praising McInnes, and Loomer appearing with McInnes at a rally all contributed to the bans.
The Verge added that one of the actions leading up to Yiannopoulos’ ban was his praise of political candidate Tommy Robinson who Facebook has also classified as a “hate figure.”
This indicates that people can now be banned from Facebook for simply associating with individuals that Facebook deems to be “hate figures.” Facebook never clearly defines the metrics that make someone a “hate figure” and Facebook can label people “hate figures” whenever it chooses.
The Verge also said that:
“The decision took into account the group’s behavior both on and offline.”
The “offline” part of the statement is particularly notable and suggests that offline real-world interactions could now be the grounds for Facebook account termination.
Overall, these reports suggest Facebook has set a worrying new precedent. Traditionally actions on Facebook were used as the sole grounds for account termination. Now it appears that Facebook is widening the scope of what could lead to a ban with a user’s personal interactions and offline actions being used as metrics in the decision.