Controversy Erupts Following Alex Jones Being Banned on Social Media

Several social media websites have decided to pull the plug on Alex Jones following complaints of spreading hate.

If you follow conspiracy theories of any kind, chances are very good that you’ve heard of Alex Jones. Jones is behind the conspiracy theory websites InfoWars and Prison Planet. Issues following Terms and Service guidelines have been an issue for a while, but things seem to have finally come to a head recently.

Last month, Jones received a second strike on YouTube thanks to a video he produced claiming that the Sandy Hook shooting was staged. At the time, Jones was already facing controversy after claiming some of the victims were crises actors. From the report at the time:

In a blog post responding to the strike, Infowars pointed to YouTube’s own policy stating “it is permissible to post graphic content ‘in a news, documentary, scientific or artistic context’ so long as it is not gratuitous.” In a statement, a YouTube spokesperson said that the company has “long-standing policies against child endangerment and hate speech.”

The four videos banned from Alex Jones’ YouTube channel are “How To Prevent Liberalism – A Public Service Announcement,” “SHOCK REPORT: Learn How Islam Has Already Conquered Europe,” “Shocking ‘Drag Tots’ Cartoon Sparks Outrage,” and “VIDEO: French President Macron Pretends Crime Rates And Migrants Are Not Co-Related.”

As a result of the second strike, Jones faced being banned from YouTube should he get a third strike. Many observers were waiting and seeing if that third strike would actually occur, thus cutting him off of the site altogether. After the second strike, things seem to go quiet on this front. Last week, that changed.

Several social media sites including Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple banned Jones from using their service citing repeated violations of community standards. From The Guardian:

Facebook unpublished four pages run by Jones for “repeated violations of community standards”, the company said on Monday. YouTube terminated Jones’s account over him repeatedly appearing in videos despite being subject to a 90-day ban from the website, and Spotify removed the entirety of one of Jones’s podcasts for “hate content”.

Facebook’s removal of the pages – the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page – comes after the social network imposed a 30-day ban on Jones personally “for his role in posting violating content to these pages”.

A few hours after Facebook announced its ban, YouTube also terminated Jones’s account on its platform. The company issued a statement that didn’t refer to Jones by name, saying only that: “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.”

The Guardian understands that the specific rationale for Jones’s ban was his habit of appearing in livestreams hosted on other channels on the site, despite being subject to a 90-day ban.

“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,” an Apple spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, which first reported the removal. “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.”

“We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” a Spotify spokesperson told the Guardian. “Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform.”

In addition to this, it seems Pinterest also joined in, banning Jones from their services. From Mashable:

Following a rough 24 hours for Alex Jones’ InfoWars that saw the removal of his YouTube channel, getting five podcasts booted from Apple’s iTunes, and the loss of four Facebook pages, the man who is perhaps best known for claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax perpetrated by so-called “crisis actors” continued to peddle his vile nonsense on a platform associated more with wedding planning than hate.

Yup, InfoWars had a Pinterest page. It was linked right there on the InfoWars homepage, tucked between the @realalexjones Twitter link and a link to a now-defunct Spotify page.

We say had, because during the process of writing this story — and shortly after Mashable reached out to Pinterest for comment — it went offline.

It is also notable that Jones has been banned on LinkedIn as well.

The next day, word came that Jones wound up being banned on YouPorn as well. A report from TheWrap:

On Monday, YouPorn announced that it would no longer host any Jones-related content, and said it had deleted six videos which violated its terms of service.

“Following news that YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify have banned Alex Jones from their platforms, team YouPorn is joining in solidarity and announces we are banning his content as well,” said the company’s vice president Charlie Hughes in a statement.

“As one of the largest user generated content platforms in the world, we have already removed his videos that have violated our terms of service. As an inclusive platform, hate has no place on YouPorn.”

Reports also surfaced that MailChimp is also banning Jones from their services. From TechCrunch:

Another tech platform has closed the door on Infowars’ Alex Jones . Mail messaging platform MailChimp first confirmed the move in a statement to U.S. media watchdog Media Matters which said the accounts had been closed for “hateful conduct.” A MailChimp spokeswoman also confirmed it to TechCrunch via email.

In a statement MailChimp said it had terminated Infowars’ and Jones’ accounts for ToS violations — adding that while it doesn’t usually comment on individual account closures it was making an exception in this case.

“We don’t allow people to use our platform to disseminate hateful content,” it wrote, adding: “We take our responsibility to our customers and employees seriously. The decision to terminate this account was thoughtfully considered and is in line with our company’s values.”

No surprise that Jones is claiming censorship in all of this.

The moves by several sites banning Jones from their platform is sparking debate about what should and shouldn’t be removed. The concern for some is that all of these sites acted almost at the exact same time. Because of this, questions are being raised about the amount of control social media sites can exert on people. A small handful of websites can determine how much someone can reach out to people.

Of course, in this case, the person in question is highly controversial to begin with. This is why there isn’t as much sympathy as you might expect over someone in this situation. Still, it does raise questions over how much control these sites have over online free speech in the first place.

One thing to keep in mind is that websites can operate their business as they see fit. So, if that content does legitimately violate their terms of service, those sites are within their rights to remove that content and/or ban the user producing said content in the first place.

Whether these moves translates into anything to be legitimately concerned about remains to be seen. Still, there’s no denying that this has been a really bad week for the conspiracy theorist and his sites.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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