Update: September 6, 2018: A day after Alex Jones showed up at hearings on Capitol Hill, where Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey were testifying before Congress, he has been permanently suspended from Twitter. The company announced the suspension, adding that it included both Jones' personal account and the InfoWars accounts," based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ previous violations."
Update: August 15, 2018: Twitter has temporarily suspended InfoWars creator Alex Jones. According to The New York Times, Jones will be prohibited from tweeting or retweeting from his account for seven days. The call came after Jones posted a link to a video that Twitter said incited violence, which is against the platform's rules.
Before now, Twitter had not taken any action against Jones, who was banned last week from Apple, Facebook, and YouTube.
This piece was originally published on August 8, 2018.
Alex Jones has spread conspiracies about everything from 9/11 (“an inside job”) to the Gates Foundation (“a eugenics operation”) to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School (“it's actors playing different parts of different people”). He’s done so through his site, InfoWars, as well as his presence on pages and channels on Facebook, YouTube, and other major online platforms, where his followers number in the millions.
In recent weeks, there has been a growing call for tech companies to enforce policies against hate speech, fake news, and bullying, by removing pages overseen by the InfoWars creator. The calls come as Jones attempts to fight three defamation lawsuits brought against him by the relatives of Sandy Hook victims.
What began as a few small actions by social media platforms — the removal of some of Jones’s YouTube videos, a 30-day Facebook suspension — has turned into a larger statement from many companies about what they will and will not tolerate. As of Monday morning, Jones had been removed from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify, with most citing hate speech violations.
Ahead, a complete breakdown of the bans.
Only one InfoWars podcast, "Real News With David Knight" is still available on Apple's Podcast app. On Sunday night, BuzzFeed was the first to report the tech giant had removed the other five Alex Jones and InfoWars podcasts from both the Podcast app and iTunes.
In response to inquiry, an Apple spokesperson provided the following statement:
"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. 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 set a powerful precedent for other tech companies, including Facebook and Spotify who took stronger action against Jones by Monday morning.
Facebook faced repeated criticism for its initial failure to remove Jones and Infowars: Many said the social media platform could not claim to fight fake news while also keeping the conspiracy theorist and his affiliated pages active.
Last week, Facebook took some action, removing four InfoWars videos that violated its hate speech and bullying policies, and suspending Jones's personal profile for 30 days. Today, it took a stronger stance, completely removing four pages belonging to Jones: the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page, and the Infowars Nightly News Page.
In a Newsroom post, Facebook explains that Jones repeatedly broke the platform's Community Standards: Since [last week], more content from the same Pages has been reported to us — upon review, we have taken it 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."
The post clarifies that these violations, and not claims related to fake news, are the reason for the pages' removal: "While much of the discussion around Infowars has been related to false news, which is a serious issue that we are working to address by demoting links marked wrong by fact checkers and suggesting additional content, none of the violations that spurred today’s removals were related to this."
Click on the Alex Jones Channel YouTube today, and you will be met with the following message: "This account has been terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines." YouTube was the last major tech company to remove Jones's channel, which had over 2.4 million subscribers and proudly said it featured "the most banned information in the world."
A YouTube spokesperson issued the following statement about the removal:
"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."
In late July, YouTube removed four of Jones's videos for violating policies against child endangerment and hate speech. Doing so resulted in a strike, which suspended live streaming privileges. Nevertheless, Jones attempted to continue live streaming through other channels, ultimately resulting in today's termination.
On Tuesday, August 8, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey finally posted a controversial tweet thread addressing the platform's decision not to ban Jones:
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Accounts like Jones' can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Dorsey's comments have received widespread backlash, with many arguing that Jones has violated the company's rules against abusive behavior. In a blog post, Del Harvey, Twitter's VP of Trust and Safety writes:
"Twitter is reflective of real conversations happening in the world and that sometimes includes perspectives that may be offensive, controversial, and/or bigoted. While we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we prohibit targeted behavior that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others. We have the Twitter Rules in place to help ensure everyone feels safe expressing their beliefs and we strive to enforce them with uniform consistency."
This piece has been updated to include a statement from Twitter.