Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Apple have joined forces to ban the website InfoWars and it’s creator Alex Jones from using their platforms.
I’m going to be honest. When I first heard that Alex Jones – a right-wing conspiracy theorist, who’s probably best known for claiming that the Sandy Hook shooting was staged – had been shown the door by the four of the biggest tech companies in the industry, I had absolutely no issue.
InfoWars routinely spreads falsities and misinformation. Take PizzaGate for instance. Days before the 2016 Presidential Election, Jones, among others, reported on a Washington D.C. pizza shop that was supposedly a front for child trafficking. The report claimed that a cabal of Democratic politicians and lawmakers were participating in a pedophilia ring. The story – which was most likely started on the infamous message board 4chan – was for the most part baseless.
Regardless of the fact that it was an obvious example of “fake news”, Jones covered the story on his website anyway. InfoWars eventually distanced themselves from promoting the theory after Edgar Welch entered the restaurant to investigate the false reports which led to shots being fired and the man being arrested. Thankfully no one was harmed.
Although it isn’t clear if Welch was a fan of InfoWars, Jones eventually apologized for his show’s role in propagating Pizzagate. Still, you can’t blame Info Wars for the shooting.
Alex Jones isn’t responsible for the actions of his viewers. He is however responsible for what he says and does. He often brags about the fact that he has millions of listeners. Given that the subject matter consists of anti-government tirades, rants that pander to the disillusioned and hyper-radical views of the tinfoil hat variety, his popularity along with the seemingly fringe element of his fan base is frightening to some people, and I believe their fears are more than justified.
Judging by Facebook & Co.’s rationale behind the coordinated purge however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Facebook said Monday that “We have taken [Info Wars] down for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic-violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims, and immigrants, which violates our hate-speech policies,” Taking Jones’ media down for glorying violence is fine by me. It’s the last part of that statement which I find concerning. Especially given the fact that just a month earlier when asked about why Jones was still allowed on the platform, Facebook stated that banning these pages would be contrary to free speech.
Apple stated to Buzzfeed News 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,” adding, “podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory.”
InfoWars is a self-styled news source, despite the fact that Jones is to journalism what Jerry Springer is to the psychiatric industry. If the decision was based solely on that premise – as I initially thought – I would gladly defend Facebook’s decision to ban them in principle and in practice.
It’s entirely possible that the newly minted tech cartel has finally had enough of Ol’ Alex’s shenanigans and decided to use their policies to axe him to avoid having to ever deal with him in the future. However the intent behind the ban seems to be more politically oriented than anything else, meaning that we might be seeing more controversial figures getting the boot soon. Either way, something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark.
Having the right to free speech doesn’t give you the right to commit slander. It also doesn’t take away from my right to discriminate against you for it. A private company like Facebook should be allowed to ban views that they disagree with from their platform. By the same token, a private company like Twitter is well within their rights to continue allowing Jones the use of theirs. It either works for both instances or not at all. I feel that it’s better to give the nutjobs a soap box. I would rather have the most radical and dangerous ideologies in plain view where they can be criticized as opposed to hiding out in the fringes where they can go unchecked.
Here’s a conspiracy: maybe the entire reasoning behind the first amendment is to let everyone have a voice. That way you can give the purveyors of bad ideas just enough rope to hang themselves.