WordPress has taken down several alt-right blogs, citing a new policy that bans blogs from the “malicious publication of unauthorized, identifying images of minors.” The change has led to the shutdown of several blogs that spread conspiracies about the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, as spotted by TechCrunch.
Now alt-right bloggers and readers claim several sites have been removed, including conspiracies about Sandy Hook and 9/11. The timing of the move comes just after The New York Times reported on how WordPress was still allowing these bloggers to stay online.
Previously, that content was left up as it didn’t directly violate WordPress’ Terms of Service, which doesn’t state how to deal with false information on the platform. Even though the content was flagged as false, there had been no consequences, as WordPress’ ToS focuses on copyright issues and account security more than the integrity of content. Essentially, WordPress’ ToS is filled with loopholes for abusers to spread misinformation.
Parents of Sandy Hook victims had little choice but to use the copyright terms to try to sue WordPress into removing the images of their children. WordPress responded with what it later told the Times was a prewritten statement saying it could seek damages against the parents in response to the copyright complaints. At the time, the company maintained its position that the conspiracy posts were allowed.
WordPress’ stance is reminiscent of how other social media platforms are currently under fire for arbitrarily determining what policies to enforce and whether to police horrific misinformation or leave it standing. As these issues gain attention, many platforms are putting new measures in place to remove abusive content, but like WordPress, their initial legal groundwork could use more scrutiny.