Tech titans are making it clear the right wing conspiracy theorist isn’t welcome on their platforms.
The tech world has been pretty staunch in its ostracisation of Alex Jones, the mastermind behind conspiracy website Infowars. However, there's been one notable exception: Twitter. The social media site has been resolute in its failure to ban Jones; CEO Jack Dorsey maintains that Jones "hasn't violated our rules".
Dorsey took to the platform he founded to tweet out his response to critics. "We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules," Dorsey explained.
"We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified."
Dorsey went on to assert that Twitter operated according to a culture of principle, not pressure: "If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints we become a service that's constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction," he explained. "That's not us."
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Apple, meanwhile, recently joined Spotify, Facebook and YouTube in snubbing Jones' content. The enfant terrible has just seen five of his Infowars podcasts culled from iTunes by Apple, including the eponymous Alex Jones Show and War Room, leaving just two podcasts associated with Jones' platform, RealNewsand David Knight, still available.
However, it appears that the increasing ostracisation of Jones from tech platforms has led to a surge in downloads of the Infowars app. Days after Apple, Spotify, Youtube et al turned their backs on the conspiracy theorist, the app's US popularity manifestly increased, coming in as the fourth most popular news app in Apple's App Store, and eleventh on the Google Play Store.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned podcasts were removed from the iTunes and Podcasts directories, meaning they're not accessible anywhere on Apple's platform. Speaking to Buzzfeed, a company spokesperson confirmed the decision, asserting that Apple "does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users."
"Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions," the statement continued.
Buzzfeed has called the move "one of the largest enforcement actions intended to curb conspiratorial news content by a technology company to date".
NEW: Apple is removing Alex Jones and Infowars' podcasts from iTunes.— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) August 6, 2018
The move is one of the largest enforcement actions intended to curb conspiratorial news content by a technology company to date https://t.co/UhscRUNBO0
The move by Apple comes hot on the heels of Spotify's recent decision to remove several episodes of the podcasts Jones hosts from its music streaming service. Certain episodes were deemed by Spotify to contain hate speech, although dozens more of Jones’ podcasts still available on the site. The move was thought to be galvanised by a social media backlash, with activists flagging Spotify’s continued streaming of the content, which other sites had decided to remove.
A spokesperson for Spotify told Pitchfork on Wednesday: “We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community. Spotify can confirm it has removed specific episodes of ‘The Alex Jones Show’ podcast for violating our hate content policy.”
This isn’t the first time that Jones, whose previous claims include that the US government was involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and that NASA faked the moon landing, has been denied a major platform for his musings.
Facebook recently decided to slap the conspiracy theorist with a 30-day “time out” from Facebook, for violating its community standards. The social media giant found four videos on Jones’ account which, it maintains, warranted an enforced, involuntary break from Facebook. The ban applied solely to Jones’ personal account, not the one million-strong Infowars page, which Jones helms.
Meanwhile, YouTube also got in on the disciplinary action, removing some of Jones’ videos and suspending his capacity to broadcast live for a considerable 90-day period.
Jones’ rise from fringe hate figure to prominent media presence has been incendiary, with the conspiracy theorist thought to reach at least 70 million people a week, according to CBS News. Jones’ catapult to fame may be, in part, explained by the relationship he maintains with President Trump, whom he interviewed in 2017.
Meanwhile, it seems the tech world is doing all it can to cull Jones’ publicly available rhetoric of its hate speech. First Facebook, then YouTube and now Spotify – the household names of tech are wading in on the debate, clamping down on Jones’ hateful dialogues.
And while naysayers may dismiss these moves as symptomatic of “snowflake” culture, Jones’ actions have the capacity to cause real harm. Previously, Jones has claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax set up by anti-gun activists, causing some of his disciples to threaten and harass victims’ parents. Reports of death threats and intimidation have surfaced, something that is owed, at least in part, to Jones’ falsified rhetoric.
As for Facebook, YouTube and Spotify, we applaud their righteous policing. Hear, hear. Or rather, as Spotify would have it when it comes to Jones, don’t.