Following Apple’s removal of Alex Jones’ podcasts from the iTunes Store, both Facebook and YouTube made the decision to remove the conspiracy theorist and popular alt-right figure, along with his Infowars network, from their respective platforms on August 6th. While Facebook cited hate speech violations for its removal of four InfoWars-related pages, YouTube said Jones circumvented a prior 90-day live-streaming ban by using other channel owners’ accounts, leading to its permanent ban.
The decision to remove Infowars is sure to have profound effects on how technology companies moderate their platforms in the future, as well as how conservative voices and fringe groups on the internet perceive their ongoing culture war with Silicon Valley. Here are the latest developments in the ongoing Infowars saga.
Oct 3, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed a bit more of the behind-the-scenes decision-making that resulted in conspiracy theorist and alt-right figure Alex Jones’ widespread tech platform ban last month in an interview on HBO’s Vice News Tonight this evening. Notably, Cook said that the decision to remove podcasts operated by Jones and his Infowars network from the official Podcasts iOS app, and later to remove the main Infowars app from the App Store, was not part of a coordinated attempt by multiple Silicon Valley companies to de-platform Jones and deny him a voice.Read Article >
“We don’t take a political stand. We’re not leaning one way or the other. You can tell that from the stuff on the App Store and in podcasts, etc. You’ll see everything from very conservative to very liberal. And that’s the way I think it should be,” Cook said. On the topic of a potential coordinated attempt, Cook said, “I’ve never even had a conversation about [Alex Jones] with any other tech companies. We make our decisions independently and I think that’s important. Honestly. I’ve had no conversation. And to my knowledge, no one at Apple has.”
Sep 21, 2018
PayPal will no longer do business with Infowars, according to a post on the conspiracy theory site this morning. PayPal broke the news in an email to Infowars yesterday, saying the company had conducted a comprehensive review of the Infowars site and found that it “promoted hate and discriminatory intolerance against certain communities and religions,” a violation of PayPal’s acceptable use policy. Infowars had used PayPal to process transactions for its on-site store; the site will have ten days to find new payment processors.Read Article >
The move comes after a string of bans, which have effectively barred Infowars from distributing content on the internet’s major platforms. Facebook banned a number of Infowars pages in August after public pressure. YouTube, Twitter, the iOS App Store, and others followed Facebook’s lead in the weeks that followed. Infowars and its founder Alex Jones have drawn increasing criticism for harassment of the parents of Sandy Hook victims (whom Jones described as “crisis actors”) and persistent conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Clinton staffer Seth Rich.
Sep 6, 2018
Twitter just permanently suspended Infowars and Alex Jones, a full month after companies like Apple, Facebook, and YouTube removed the conspiracy theorist and his blog from their platforms. Twitter said that the Infowars creator had violated its “abusive behavior” rules.Read Article >
Twitter at last deemed Jones went too far after he tweeted a video of himself confronting a CNN reporter, calling him an equivalent of “the Hitler Youth” and using other disturbing imagery to disparage him.
Aug 17, 2018
Why does Twitter move so slowly?Read Article >
It’s a question that has been on my mind since Monday, as we watched the company belatedly tiptoe into enforcement of its guidelines against inciting violence. It came up again Thursday, as we saw the company move — a staggering six years after first promising to do so — to significantly restrict the capabilities of third-party apps.
Aug 16, 2018
Last week, we talked about why Facebook banned Alex Jones — and Twitter didn’t. Facebook saw that Jones, who had already violated any number of the platform’s rules, had no intention of reforming himself. Twitter said first that Jones had not broken any rules; and then — after a CNN’s Oliver Darcy showed the company a series of offending tweets — that he had, but not enough to get banned.Read Article >
Late on Tuesday, Twitter took another half-step toward banning Jones — suspending him for a week, after posted a video on Twitter in which he encouraged his followers to get their “battle rifles” in anticipation of all-out war with his enemies.
Aug 14, 2018
On Friday, I wrote about Twitter’s seeming paralysis when it came to enforcing its platform rules. What, exactly, was going on over there? Late Friday evening, we got an answer of sorts. The company invited Cecilia Kang and Kate Conger of The New York Times to sit in on a meeting in which CEO Jack Dorsey and 18 of his colleagues debated safety policies. The meeting was rather… inconclusive, they report:Read Article >
Elsewhere in the piece, executives sound other notes we’ve heard before from this and other platforms: Free speech is valuable. Moderation issues are difficult. User safety is important. Ultimately, Twitter seemed to double down on delayed action, agreeing “to draft a policy about dehumanizing speech and open it to the public for their comments.” (Is Twitter really lacking for public speech on this subject?)
Aug 11, 2018
On one hand, we spent maybe too much time this week on the question of whether one person should lose access to his social media accounts. On the other hand, it’s a question that illuminates some of the central tensions that led me to start this newsletter. How can social media be used to do harm? Can tech companies effectively rein in their worst users? Also, what the hell is Twitter’s deal?Read Article >
Will Oremus tries to answer the latter question with some reporting on what people inside Twitter are saying about Alex Jones. He offers a handful of theories on the company’s paralyzed, contradictory stances on Infowars. First, there’s Twitter’s bias toward inaction on almost all things; second, there’s its terror of being called partisan by conservatives or by Congress. There’s also the possibility that Twitter will ban Jones, and is still finalizing its public case for doing so.
Aug 10, 2018
On Tuesday, weighing in on the public pressure to ban Alex Jones and Infowars from Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey called on journalists for help. “Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors,” Dorsey tweeted, “so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”Read Article >
Journalists complained loudly about being asked to perform unpaid content moderation on Twitter’s behalf. But in the spirit of serving the public conversation, CNN’s Oliver Darcy decided to document some of those unsubstantiated rumors of Alex Jones’. Taking a tour of Jones’ Twitter history, he found 20 attacks on the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, on the survivors of the Parkland shooting, on gay people, on Muslims, and on CNN’s Brian Stelter, whom he called, among other things, the “literal demon spawn of the pit of Hell,” a “smiling leering Devil,” and a “degenerate sack of anti-human trash.”
Aug 9, 2018
Last night, amid growing pressure to address Alex Jones’ presence on Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey tried to explain the company’s position. In a series of five tweets, he made the following case:Read Article >
He then linked to a somewhat confounding new blog post, “The Twitter Rules: A Living Document,” that does little more than say that the Twitter rules are a living document. It was confounding in that no one had accused the Twitter rules of being a dead document, only a weak and erratically enforced one, in any case it seemed to bear little relation to Dorsey’s tweets, even though they were published simultaneously.
Aug 8, 2018
Alex Jones’ fate was decided over the weekend, when Apple CEO Tim Cook and his vice president of software and services, Eddy Cue, met to talk about it. So says Dylan Byers in his daily newsletter, Pacific, which lays out the first reported account of how most of the major tech platforms came to ban the Infowars host on a single day. Byers continues:Read Article >
I read Byers’ reporting with interest, because it answered a question I’ve had since waking up to the news of Jones’ banning on Monday. After months of defending his right to spread misinformation, why did Facebook and YouTube decide to ban Jones on the same day?
Aug 7, 2018
Infowars Official, the app named after Alex Jones’ controversial radio talk show, has become the fourth most popular news app in the United States that’s currently available in the iOS App Store, according to public rankings. It was the 47th most popular just two days ago.Read Article >
The free app, which launched in June, streams live shows and written pieces from Jones and other conservative pundits. It also links to the Infowars store where visitors can buy T-shirts and skincare products. An Android version of the app is available in the Google Play Store; there, it jumped from being the 31st most popular news app to the 11th.
Aug 7, 2018
On Monday, the bottom dropped out for Alex Jones. After a series of tepid disciplinary actions, which the Infowars host evaded with ease, three of the biggest tech platforms acted in near-unison beginning late Sunday night. And the result is that one of the popular conspiracy performers on the internet has found his reach dramatically reduced.Read Article >
The great de-platforming of Alex Jones began last week, when Spotifyand Stitcher removed Infowars podcasts from their respective networks. (Spotify initially removed a handful of episodes before removing whole shows.) On Sunday night, Apple followed suit, removing his podcast from iTunes for violating its rules against hate speech.
Aug 6, 2018
It’s a tough day to be Alex Jones. Following months of debate around the limitations of speech on tech-owned internet platforms, many of the biggest and most popular players in the world of social media have announced that they will no longer host content related to Infowars — the conservative personality’s controversial talk show, video network, and website that often peddle false or misleading information.Read Article >
The biggest criticism of Jones and Infowars centers on the seemingly endless torrent of conspiracy theories that were a part of the network’s regular programming — including the idea that the Sandy Hook shooting was entirely staged with paid “crisis actors” and that global pedophilia rings are run by Hollywood and DC elites. Despite being patently false, as well as involved with the incitement of real-world physical violence, some platforms, including Facebook, initially declined to ban Jones from its platform even while acknowledging the damage he does while spreading false information.
Aug 6, 2018
YouTube moved on Monday to delete the Alex Jones Channel for violating its community guidelines, the latest in a string of moves from tech giants that could dramatically limit the reach of the Infowars host and conspiracy theorist. The move was the latest in a cascade of platform moves against Jones, following related bans from Apple, Spotify, and Facebook.Read Article >
Platforms have been under pressure to take action against Jones, who has millions of followers across their networks, after he repeatedly posted videos containing hate speech and child endangerment.
Apple has removed a number of podcasts created by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars site from the Podcasts app and iTunes store. The decision to remove the content comes as Facebook has also censured Jones by unpublishing four of the radio host’s pages this morning for violating the social network’s rules against hate speech.Read Article >
Apple says the removal of Jones’ podcasts — which was first reported on Sunday night by BuzzFeed News — was due to similar violations.
Facebook has removed four pages run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, explaining that the channels repeatedly violated the site’s policies against hate speech and bullying.Read Article >
The decision to take down the four pages is the strongest censure of Jones’ behavior by Facebook yet. Last week, the company removed four videos shared on Jones’ channels and gave the radio host’s personal profile a 30-day suspension. However, this did not affect the output of pages run by Jones and his associates, which kept on uploading new content.
Jul 28, 2018
Two weeks ago, CNN’s Oliver Darcy put a question to Facebook executives during an event in New York: how can Facebook say it’s serious about fighting misinformation while also allowing the notorious conspiracy site Infowars to host a page there, where it has collected nearly 1 million followers? The tension Darcy identified wasn’t new. But it crystallized the a contradiction at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to clean up its platform. And we’ve been talking about it ever since.Read Article >
Late Thursday night, Facebook took its first enforcement action against Jones since the current debate started. The company removed four videos that were posted to the pages of Alex Jones, Infowars’ founder and chief personality, and Infowars itself. Jones, who had violated Facebook’s community guidelines before, received a 30-day ban. Infowars’ page got off with a warning, although Facebook took the unusual step of saying the page is “close” to being unpublished.
Jul 27, 2018
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been suspended from Facebook for 30 days after violating the site’s community guidelines. According to multiple publications, Jones will be unable to use his personal account. But, reports TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, Facebook pages associated with Jones’ name (including “Alex Jones” and “The Alex Jones Channel”) will remain active, with administrators for the pages able to post new content.Read Article >
In addition to the 30-day personal suspension, four videos were removed from the Facebook page of Jones’ site InfoWars and the page served with its first warning. Facebook said that InfoWars’ videos violated its community guidelines by encouraging physical harm against others and attacking individuals for their religious affiliation and gender identity.
Jul 25, 2018
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ YouTube channel received a strike on Tuesday for violating the site’s community guidelines, The Verge has learned. YouTube removed four videos from Jones’ channel, which has 2.4 million subscribers, that contained instances of hate speech and child endangerment, sources familiar with the matter said. YouTube channels are deleted if they get three strikes in a three-month period.Read Article >
Two videos contained hate speech against Muslims, and a third contained hate speech against transgender people, sources said. A fourth showed a child who was pushed to the ground by an adult man, under the headline “How to prevent liberalism.” All four of the videos are currently posted on Infowars.