Social media giants have undertaken their most significant deplatforming move yet. Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and Spotify have removed Alex Jones’ InfoWars content completely as part of their crackdown on so-called fake news and hate speech. This leaves Twitter as the only major social media platform InfoWars have access to. The InfoWars.com site can still be directly accessed and shows up in Google search results.
Alex Jones began as a radio host in Austin, Texas in the 1990s and quickly gained a reputation for his promotion of various conspiracy theories. He believed that the September 11 terror attacks were an inside job by the United States Government and is opposed to vaccines and water fluoridation. He had successfully made the transition from radio host to internet personality with the launch of InfoWars.com which included his InfoWars store which sold water filters, supplements and survival gear.
Despite Alex Jones’ constant propagation of conspiracy theories and his brash and aggressive presentation style his popularity has soared over the past decade building up a loyal fan base called Infowarriors. He supported Donald Trump for the Presidency and early in his campaign Trump appeared on his radio program.
The Alex Jones YouTube channel had 2.4 million subscribers and its videos were viewed over 1.5 billion times. A spokesperson for Google stated “When users violate … policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts”. Infowars’ YouTube channel in March this year was under threat of threat of deletion after recieiving three community standards strikes but survived.
Facebook unpublished four InfoWars branded pages for “repeated violations of community standards and accumulating too many strikes” going onto say “Upon review, we have taken it down for glorifying violence … and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies”.
Facebook has been under pressure from mainstream media and establishment politicians to crack down on fake news and misinformation with alleged Russian interference in 2016 Presidential election often used as a justification. Last month Facebook promised it would remove false information that is intended to incite violence and other physical harm but not all fake news.
Probably most alarming was Apple’s decision to remove Alex Jones’ and InfoWars podcasts given that it has not gained as prominent a reputation for deplatforming as Facebook and Google have. Apple told BuzzFeed news it “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”.
The deplatforming did not affect Infowars Editor at Large Paul Joseph Watson who is still on Facebook and YouTube and was able to post his response video to the deplatforming. Watson labelled the InfoWars ban as an attempt by these companies to prevent InfoWars influencing in the upcoming 2018 United States mid term elections calling it an attempt a vote rigging.
Alex Jones’ put a direct message out to his followers on Twitter claiming this was the pending internet censorship he had been warning about and that InfoWars is now the face of the online resistance.
Alex Jones’ Warning To The World On Internet Censorship pic.twitter.com/DNdiR6goHb
— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) August 6, 2018
Twitter said through a spokesperson that InfoWars was not currently in violation of Twitter rules.
The reaction to Jones’ and InfoWars deplatforming from social media personalities has been one of alarm, even from conservatives who disagree with Jones’ views such as Ben Shapiro.
While those in the mainstream media have applauded Facebook, YouTube and Apple for removing what they believe is dangerous content which can inspire domestic terrorism and other criminal acts.
InfoWars deplatforming has certainly sent a chill down the spine of many in the alt-media who have taken note that if giant player like InfoWars can be removed from social media then it can happen to anyone. Many alt-media companies still rely on generating traffic and income from their reach on social media and therefore can have their livelihood removed in an instant.
InfoWars has the following to survive and the resources to fight this concerted deplatforming effort. Everyone is now anticipating if any other media company will be targeted in this way by the social media giant and just how veracious this crackdown on fake news will be.