*By Alisha Haridasani *
Facebook’s decision this week to allow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to remain on its platformーdespite his on-the-record threat to shoot special counsel Robert Muellerーmay seem controversial, but the alternative could be worse.
Axios reporter Sara Fischer certainly thinks so, noting that censorship would have dire consequences for the company.
“If you look at it from the other way ... that could be a PR disaster,” she said.
On Monday, Jones live-streamed his controversial InfoWars show, on which he's been known to tout conspiracy theories, on his verified Facebook page, falsely accusing Mueller of running a child sex ring and then claiming he may shoot the federal investigator.
“You’re going to get it, or I’m going to die trying,” Jones said in his post.
The content was flagged by multiple users, but Facebook told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that Jones didn’t violate any content rules.
Jones’s post came days after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said fake news will be allowed on the social media platformーuntil it incites violence.
“It’s hard to impugn intent,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with Recode. He cited the example of Sandy Hook deniersーJones is a prominent memberーand Holocaust deniers who, he said, don’t “intentionally” get the facts wrong.
Instead of removing content altogether, Facebook has been suppressing posts that have raised concerns, said Fischer.
“They’ve removed the financial incentives to post some of this stuff. If they find that you’re posting a ton of conspiracy theories or fake news, they’re going to remove your advertising rights, they’re going to down-rank your content so you don’t get the traffic.”
The company has also expanded its team of monitors to keep an eye on content, said Fischer.
Facebook’s narrow definition of bad content and the latest controversy reflect a continuing struggle to uphold principles of free speech and openness, a point that Zuckerberg repeated several times during his testimony on Capitol Hill in April.
A Facebook executive declined to comment on the Jones controversy during her interview with Cheddar on Wednesday.
For full interview, click here.