You might recall that Facebook took an earlier stance against removing InfoWars from their website, indicating that everyone had a right to their own beliefs and views. But now, Facebook has removed four pages run by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. What was their reason? Facebook explains that the channels repeatedly violate their policies against hate speech and bullying. The channels include Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page, and the InfoWars Nightly News Page. As I said, Facebook made the earlier decision to not remove these pages because everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. But now they are saying that these pages no longer meet their Community Standards.
Facebook explained this decision in a blog post titled “Enforcing Our Community Standards”. The post details how Facebook’s “strike” system works to determine which pages and individuals have broken the site’s rules enough to warrant a ban. This system has been criticized in recent months for its seemingly arbitrary and opaque nature. A recent undercover documentary detailing the work of Facebook’s moderators adding to the criticism, when it showed that the company repeatedly let far-right fringe groups exceed the usual number of strikes for bad behavior. More specifically, though, Facebook has removed Jones pages due to “glorifying violence” and using “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslim, and immigrants”.
But it doesn’t stop there. Apple has removed five of Jones’ six podcasts that have been available to stream on iTunes and from their Podcast app. Their reason? The same as Facebook. They do not tolerate hate speech on their platform. Because of that, you won’t be able to search for InfoWars anywhere on the podcast directory. The only podcast that is still available is The Real News with David Knight.
In January, Spotify censored several InfoWars podcasts in response to community criticism and have indicated that the podcasts were in breach of its hate speech policy. Online radio service Stitcher took similar measures, scrapping InfoWars podcasts from its platform following a review which determined Jones had “harassed or allowed harassment of private individuals and organizations”.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the ban also extends to YouTube, where last month, multiple videos from The Alex Jones Channel were removed due to community guideline violations. All of these actions combined are certainly going to have an impact when it comes to Jones’ reach.
I’ve said this before, and it is a bit controversial. Not because I believe in what Jones is doing. Nor do I think that hate speech is acceptable. But I kind of agree with Facebook in their original determination that everyone has the right to have their voices heard. I don’t have to like what everyone has to say, nor does everyone have the right to like what I say. But it’s our right to say the things that we believe in. What Jones has done, however, is taken it into the realm of hate speech and that’s not something I cannot tolerate. Will Jones be able to come back from this? That remains to be seen, but for now, at least, social media is free from InfoWars.