For those of us who are Very Online, you may have noticed what’s known as an “embargo drop.” That’s when a piece of planned news goes live, and multiple organizations all report on it at the same time. In this case, it was news about how Facebook made the executive decision to ban certain far-right and/or abusive accounts on the Instagram platform. The accounts belonged to Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, InfoWars, Laura Loomer, Paul Joseph Watson, Paul Nehlen, and Louis Farrakhan. Many of these accounts have already been banned on other social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.
While feeding the information to multiple outlets beforehand is unusual for non-product-related news, it’s not terribly surprising that the company is cracking down on this content. These accounts are known for spreading misinformation and hate, and there’s been a slow but forceful push for tech companies to get better control of this type of content.
But there is one thing about this embargo that was interesting: Facebook made the announcement of the bans public before the bans actually took effect. The news went live at 2 p.m. ET, and when I checked to see if the accounts were down, most of them remained up—a few of which even had new posts alerting followers to their soon-to-happen ban:
It seems Jones was even promoting the ban on his Facebook account:
More than an hour after Facebook said it put InfoWars on double-secret-probation, InfoWars is livestreaming about its Facebook ban *on Facebook*
Like, Alex Jones literally has one his paper printouts of CNN’s story about InfoWars’ Facebook ban during this Facebook livestream pic.twitter.com/zqBBCLrro8
— Joan E. Solsman (@joan_e) May 2, 2019
The only account that was actually offline was Louis Farrkhan. (Update: All of the accounts seem to be down over an hour after the news initially went live.)
It’s an odd move for Facebook to make the announcement before actually performing the action. And the fact that it appears to have given these accounts time to divert traffic to a new location makes the entire situation even more mystifying. It’s clear that Facebook was trying to get an onslaught of positive press for cracking down on this content, thus why it embargoed the announcement to so many outlets. But the company hadn’t even done the simple action it announced to so many reporters.
I reached out to Facebook asking what exactly happened and why it gave the accounts some lead time to alert followers. I’ll update this post when I hear back.
For now, we’ll wait until the next planned announcement that a large internet company followed its own content guidelines.