Alex Jones contents erased from top tech companies Facebook, Apple and YouTube.
Top technology companies Facebook, Apple and YouTube erased most of the posts and videos on their services from Alex Jones, the internet’s most notorious conspiracy theorist, thrusting themselves into a fraught debate over their role in regulating what can be said online.
Facebook, Apple and YouTube, Google and Spotify severely restricted the reach of Alex Jones and Infowars, his right-wing site that has been a leading peddler of false information online. Alex Jones and Infowars have used social media for years to spread dark and bizarre theories, such as that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that Democrats run a global child-sex ring. Apple made its move on Sunday and the others followed on Monday.
Late Sunday, Apple stripped the majority of podcasts published by Alex Jones’s website Infowars from iTunes and its podcast apps. “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,” the company said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
Apple’s decision came after other popular tech platforms, including Spotify, Facebook and YouTube, had removed some of Alex Jones’s offending content. But Apple’s move was the most sweeping yet. The company’s decision to pull the Infowars podcasts was first reported by BuzzFeed. Apple removed five of the six Infowars programs from its listings, including “The Alex Jones Show” and “War Room.”
YouTube on Monday terminated the Alex Jones Channel, telling The Post in a statement, “All users agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines when they sign up to use YouTube. When users violate these policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts.”
Instead, tech companies have pointed to a breach of policies against hate speech, rather than misinformation, for removing Jones. Spotify removed several episodes of ‘The Alex Jones Show’ last week, citing violations of its policy against hateful speech. Online sentiment had been building against Spotify for days after subscribers found the episodes’ listing on the service.
Prior to its action Monday, YouTube removed four of Alex Jones’ videos from his channel two weeks ago and suspended him from broadcasting live for 90 days saying the channel violated the company’s graphic content policy.
Apple’s move Sunday to remove five of six Infowars-related podcasts including “The Alex Jones Show” and “War Room” from its directories — first reported by Buzzfeed News — seemed to initiate a domino effect. “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,” the company said in a statement.
In a series of text messages to The Washington Post, Alex Jones called the decisions to remove him from Facebook, Apple,YouTube and Spotify “a counter-strike against the global awakening.” He accused Apple and Google of colluding with the Chinese government, mainstream news organizations, the Democratic Party and establishment elements of the Republican Party to misrepresent his views and deprive him of platforms that allow him to spread his messages.
Jones has also drawn intense criticism. He claimed that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax and now faces defamation lawsuits brought by some of the families whose children were killed. Jones has also spread conspiracy theories about teenagers who survived the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla. and more recently claimed that the left was on the verge of starting another U.S. civil war.
Facebook, too, escalated its enforcement. In a blog post Monday, the social-networking platform said it removed four of Jones’s pages for violating its community standards. Facebook previously erased four videos hosted by these pages, but the company said users continued to report offensive content published by them. Now Facebook has unpublished the pages for glorifying violence and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies,” the company said. Facebook took down the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Nightly News Page and the Infowars Page. Last month, Facebook suspended Jones for 30 days.
Apple on Sunday removed five of the six Infowars podcasts on its popular Podcasts app. Commenting on the move, a spokeswoman said, “Apple does not tolerate hate speech.”