Facebook has banned the longtime leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam as part of the tech giant’s efforts to rid its websites of hate speech and “dangerous” people and organizations.
Pages affiliated with Minister Louis Farrakhan — as well as right-wing figures Alex Jones, Paul Nehlen, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopolous — were removed from both Facebook and Instagram for violations of Facebook’s policies, the website said in a statement. The Nation of Islam’s Facebook page, however, was still accessible Thursday night and does not appear to have been banned.
While Facebook did not say what led to the crackdown Thursday, it says the newly banned accounts violated its existing policies. The company says it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology.
Farrakhan’s official Facebook and Instagram pages had more than 1 million “likes” and followers before they were removed Thursday afternoon. His Twitter account, with more than 336,000 followers, remains active.
A representative for the Nation of Islam did not respond to requests for comment about Farrakhan’s ban. Addressing the Facebook and Instagram ban on Twitter, the Nation of Islam invited its followers to sign up for its email newsletter “to stay connected with Movement & Action!”
The official Facebook and Instagram pages of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan have been removed by Facebook, Inc. We invite you and others to join our Nation of Islam email list to stay connected with Movement & Action! https://t.co/Gl8HkilLxn pic.twitter.com/MNoeoBlRam— The Nation of Islam (@OfficialNOI) May 2, 2019
Posts on Farrakhan’s Facebook page often contained clips of his speeches and sermons, some of which have been streamed on Facebook Live. Many of those same clips are still posted to his Twitter account, where they have been viewed and shared several hundred thousand times.
A representative for Twitter did not respond when asked if the platform had plans to ban Farrakhan.
Lengthy history of bigoted remarks
Farrakhan, who leads the Nation of Islam from its headquarters at 73rd and Stony Island, has a lengthy history of bigoted comments, especially against Jews. He has publicly said that Jews control the U.S. government, the media and were responsible for the slave trade and 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Anti-Defamation League says the Nation of Islam “has maintained a consistent record of anti-Semitism and racism since its founding in the 1930s.”
In a 2017 speech, Farrakhan, 85, said that modern-day Jews are “not really Jews but, in fact, Satan,” according to the ADL.
“The organization has used its programs, institutions, and media to disseminate its message of hate,” the group said.
In a speech given in Detroit last October, Farrakhan compared Jews that don’t like him to vermin.
“To the members of the Jewish community that don’t like me: Thank you very much for putting my name all over the planet because of your fear of what we represent,” he said to a round of applause. “I’m not mad at you cuz you’re so stupid.”
“So when they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater — you know what they do — call me an anti-Semite, stop it,” he added. “I’m anti-termite.”
Critics praised the move, but said there is more to be done on both Facebook and Instagram.
“We know that there are still white supremacists and other extremist figures who are actively using both platforms to spread their hatred and bigotry,” said Keegan Hankes, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has designated the Nation of Islam a “hate group.”
Oren Segal, ADL’s director of the Center on Extremism, said there’s “no one silver bullet” to end anti-Semitism but that Facebook’s banning of Farrakhan sent a positive message.
“This will not put an end to Farrakhan’s hate or his ability to spread it,” Segal said. “But doing nothing is not a viable alternative.”
Segal said social media has become filled with bigotry mixed in next to real news, and that it’s the platforms’ duty to filter out the hate.
“They not only have a responsibility to their users but also to society,” Segal said. “Taking a stand against hatred and extremism is important.”
‘Hypocrisy and double standards’
St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger, the head priest at the Roman Catholic church on the South Side and an ally of Farrakhan, on Thursday ripped Facebook and its chairman and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, for the move.
“How dare FB BAN Minister Louis Farrakhan while daily I come across Racist, Violent and Hateful comments and postings…I STAND WITH MY BROTHER….Mr. Zuckerberg your hypocrisy and double standards are disgraceful,” he tweeted.
How dare FB BAN Minister Louis Farrakhan while daily I come across Racist, Violent and Hateful comments and postings...I STAND WITH MY BROTHER....Mr. Zuckerberg your hypocrisy and double standards are disgraceful #lifttheban #supportfarrakhan— Fr. Michael Pfleger (@MichaelPfleger) May 2, 2019
Richard Muhammad, the editor-in-chief of The Final Call, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam, wrote a column Wednesday about murders carried out by white nationalists under the headline: “White Nationalism, White Hatred Is America’s Problem, Not Louis Farrakhan.”
“Despite the tragedy and loss of life in California and that killing which we reject, we will not sacrifice Min. Farrakhan on an altar that absolves America of her sins or tries to destroy this innocent man,” Muhammad wrote, referring to a deadly shooting last weekend at a Southern California synagogue, allegedly by a white supremacist.
Facebook has previously taken steps to ban white supremacist groups from its platforms, including some that helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Contributing: Nader Issa, Associated Press