Popular internet pundit Paul Joseph Watson is mulling legal action after being banned from Facebook for spreading “hate,” telling RT that it’s clear social media platforms are cracking down on dissident political speech.
Facebook kicked Watson off its platform on May 2 – along with conservative commentator Laura Loomer, Infowars founder Alex Jones, and black nationalist leader Louis Farrakhan. The group was accused of spreading “hateful” content, although no warnings or concrete reasons were provided for their seemingly arbitrary bans.
Watson, who runs a YouTube channel that boasts more than 1.5 million subscribers, has become a well-known but polarizing commentator on culture and politics. A long-time Infowars contributor, Watson now has his own outlet, Summit News.
Although he’s been labeled as an “alt-right” conspiracy theorist, Watson insists that he’s been smeared – and de-platformed – simply because he holds contrarian views.
“There is clearly no future for dissident personalities on any major social media network. We will have to go back to mailing lists and websites as our primary, and perhaps only platforms for delivering content,” he said.
He told RT that he’s hired the “best media lawyers in London” who “have taken on numerous media giants in the past and won” and will advise him about what legal recourse he has against Facebook.
The first step towards suing Facebook over his ban, according to Watson, is to initiate a written request, called a Subject Access Request, which requires the company to release all information relevant to the individual’s case under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act.
The information would be needed to verify if an individual violated community standards or if the company merely made a politically-motivated decision. Watson also intends to put Facebook on notice about the harm they have caused to his reputation by putting him under the category of “dangerous individuals,” which is one of Facebook’s stated reasons for banning people under the company’s community standards.
The list Facebook has made for what counts as “dangerous individuals” includes: Terrorist activity, organized hate, mass or serial murder, human trafficking, and organized violence or criminal activity. Facebook would have to verifiably prove that the banned person engaged in any of these activities, or the decision could count as defamation of character.
The hate watchdog organization Southern Poverty Law Centre (SLPC) has publicly admitted it was behind the censorship. In its statement, the SPLC writes how the banning of these individuals shows that social media companies are responding to their “pressure,” but adds that they nonetheless haven’t done enough, claiming they “have more work to do against hateful content.”
“The SPLC is not a fact-checker, it’s a hyper-partisan political attack dog which solely exists to demonize its ideological adversaries. There is no way to hold them accountable, they are accountable only to their own agenda and bias,” Watson said.
Twitter has reportedly dropped the SPLC as a reliable source for detecting hate content online and to police its platform, but other social media giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have continued to use the watchdog to decide what content should be kept on their sites.
Facebook has also recently come under fire from its co-founder Chris Hughes, who wrote an exclusive op-ed in The New York Times on Thursday calling for Facebook’s monopoly to be broken up, as its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has “unilateral control over free speech,” adding that his power is “unprecedented and un-American.”
“Personally, if and when I am banned on everything, I will probably just move into the background until the environment is once again fertile and if big enough alternative platforms exist which actually support free speech,” Watson added.
Facebook isn’t the only social media platform to face accusations of shutting down political speech it doesn’t like: In April, the company banned two conservative British candidates running for European Parliament, Tommy Robinson and Carl Benjamin, less than a month before the election.
The site banned Alex Jones and all Infowars accounts in September 2018.
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