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CULTURE

Hate Speech or Censorship? Alex Jones Booted by Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and iTunes

picture of Alex Jones
Alex Jones portrait via WikimediaCommons

In a move underscoring one of today’s most contentious debates Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and iTunes all removed various types of content from controversial political talk show host, Alex Jones and his Infowars website.

The removal of Jones’ content touches on the modern day debate over free speech and whether speech deemed hateful or inciting violence should be publicly allowed. The platforms that banned Jones’ content did so because they said his content violated company policies which do not allow hate speech.

Facebook, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube Announce Alex Jones Ban

On Monday Facebook announced it had removed four Alex Jones related pages including the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page. Facebook said in a statement they first removed videos from the pages that violated their hate speech and bullying policies. Jones himself was put on a 30-day block for posting such content, but similar content continued to be published and thus, Facebook unpublished the pages altogether.

“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.

“All four Pages have been unpublished for repeated violations of Community Standards and accumulating too many strikes. 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,” said the Facebook statement.

Spotify removed The Alex Jones Show from its podcast listings and said in their statement, “We take reports of hate content seriously. Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform.”

YouTube’s removal of the Alex Jones Channel from its platform may have the most dramatic impact on the show as it had 2.4 million subscribers and its videos were viewed over 1 billion times.

“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,” said a spokesperson for YouTube.

Apple has also removed five podcasts related to Alex Jones and Infowars from its podcast database. Twitter, however, has not taken action against Jones or InfoWars and CNN reported a spokesperson for Twitter said neither Infowars nor Jones were currently in violation of any Twitter policies.

Hate Speech, Fake News

Jones is famously known for reporting controversial news and often doing so in a sensationalized and dramatic fashion, using dramatic stunts like taking off his shirt while reporting to engage his audience. He was widely criticized for supporting and propagating conspiracy theories like the Sandy Hook conspiracy which he argued was a hoax.

His reports have made him a target of a number of lawsuits. Parents of Sandy Hook children who were murdered in the school shooting sued him for defamation for spreading lies about the shooting. Chobani and the owners of Comet Pizza in Washington DC, which became the central figure in the Pizzagate conspiracy, have also sued Alex Jones for spreading false information.

Supporters of Jones argue he is a victim of censorship that targets conservative or right-wing media in particular.

“To all other conservative news outlets — you are next,” Paul Joseph Watson, a right-wing commentator and Infowars contributor, said on Twitter on Monday. “The great censorship purge has truly begun.”

The platforms that banned Jones’ argue he is a purveyor of hate speech and he incites or glorifies violence. Fake news was not part of their decision to ban Jones.

In recent weeks Jones’ received backlash for an on-air message he made regarding Robert Mueller, the lead investigator in the Trump Russia collusion investigation. Jones imitated firing a gun and said, “It’s not a joke. It’s not a game. It’s the real world. Politically. You’re going to get it, or I’m going to die trying, bitch. Get ready. We’re going to bang heads. We’re going to bang heads.”

Last year GLAAD, an LGBTQ rights organization, published a list of controversial statements Jones has made over the years. Some of the statements were:

  • Said transgender bathroom access is about “jacking with” children. [The Alex Jones Channel]
  • Accused the UN of being a “space cult plotting to turn children gay.” FULL QUOTE: “The reason there are so many gay people now is because it’s a chemical warfare operation,”…“I have the government documents where they said they’re going to encourage homosexuality with chemicals so people don’t have children.” [Salon]
  • “A lot of liberal women, as you know, the new thing is having a jihadi…There’s nothing sexier than a jihadi because it’s so fun to have him step on your head and kick you in the gut.” [Right Wing Watch]
  • Called for the burning the Q’ran, shutting down all mosques, and deportation of all Muslims. [YouTube: Total News T.V]
  • Infowars promotes the argument that there is “no such thing as moderate Islam.” [Infowars]

Private Organizations are Not Bound By the First Amendment

While some forms of hate speech may be protected under the First Amendment, there are exceptions. It’s also important to note that Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and iTunes are all private organizations which set their own company and user policies.

 

First Amendment lawyer Ken White, explained in a Los Angeles Time op-ed in 2017 that there are narrow exceptions to First Amendment speech protections including “obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, true threats and speech integral to already criminal conduct.” However, Burns noted in recent years the Supreme Court has ruled strongly in favor of protecting free speech.

 

“For decades the court has been moving towards more vigorous protection of free speech, not less. Some of the most controversial and unpopular speech to come before the court — like videos of animals being tortured, or incendiary Westboro Baptist Church protests at funerals — have yielded solid 8-to-1 majorities in favor of protecting speech,” White said.

 

But what Burns is talking about applies to government censorship of speech, private organizations are a different issue.

 

Marissa Lang addressed the issue of censorship on privately owned platforms in a San Francisco Chronicle article in 2016. As she explained, private companies are not bound by the First Amendment, and they have a right to set user policy agreements and moderate users and comments for policy violations.

“The quandary that these companies find themselves in is that they enjoy the freedom of not having any First Amendment liability, so they’re in this free zone,” said Morgan Weiland, a junior affiliate scholar at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. “They also have massive responsibility because they’re dealing with people’s freedom of expression on such a large scale that people cannot opt out and still meaningfully engage with the world.”

Emma Llanso who is the director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology told Lang that they agreed private companies have a right to set their own rules and regulations.

“When you have someone who has an account on a social platform and they’ve put their time and energy into making connections and they know that’s where their audience is, and then they get their account shut down on that service, that absolutely feels like a huge limit on their freedom of expression and can be very disruptive,” said Llanso.

“It feels like censorship. But we need to remember the difference between government-imposed censorship and a particular company not being willing to host your speech.”

 

Secret Facebook Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children

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Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.

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53 Comments

  1. Sean Kearney August 6, 2018

    In my opinion censorship.

    Reply
  2. Johnny Thomas August 6, 2018

    When I hear or c him all I get is hate speech.

    Reply
  3. Michael S Gregory Sr. August 6, 2018

    He’s NUTS.

    Has to have Supervised Visits with his Own Children.

    Thank You Facebook for Shouting Him Down.

    Reply
  4. Bo Seib August 6, 2018

    Hate speech

    Reply
  5. Jeff Helmberger August 6, 2018

    Hate speech free speech doesn’t go that far.

    Reply
  6. Robert Strauss August 6, 2018

    Censorship

    Reply
  7. Gary J. Weber August 6, 2018

    Never heard of him.

    Reply
  8. Cheryl Stephens August 6, 2018

    Hurrah!

    Reply
  9. Jim Doss August 6, 2018

    Kinda strange since snowflakes are always yellin collusion.

    Reply
  10. TheTimeTravelPundit ❌ August 6, 2018

    @realvonB It’s not constitutional to refer to any speech as hate speech. So. It’s dishonest, devious censorship.

    Reply
  11. Ari Peter Garcia August 6, 2018

    Neither, it’s just the free market doing it’s thing.

    Reply
  12. Bob Shanahan August 6, 2018

    They’re now kicking it into high gear. The censorship is underway. We are witnessing the outright suppression of speech from our ever enlightened Google and Facebook. Hate speech is free speech. It’s still protected. Just because you disagree with something or find it deplorable does not mean you get to silence that person or that organization. We’ve already seen a ridiculous amount of shadow banning of conservatives on Twitter and right-learning and alternative news sites are being kept out of Google searches and take off of Facebook. This is a dangerous trend in America right now that shows no signs of slowing down. As a libertarian, it pays me to says this, but we need to regulate the tech giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter. They cannot continue to do this. It is simply unconstitutional.

    Reply
    1. Lauren von Bernuth August 6, 2018

      Then you must agree to forcing the bakers to bake their penis cake, yes?

    2. Joseph Mangano August 6, 2018

      Hate speech is indeed protected speech, or at least not explicitly ruled out by the First Amendment. In this case, though, these private companies are simply enforcing their codes of conduct, so it’s not a case of government censorship. If a corporation decides it wants to curb hate speech, that’s its prerogative.

      Where things get complicated is when something like Facebook, a platform that has already generated controversy for algorithms that suppress alternative news sites, works with Congress and groups like the Atlantic Council to marshal content. In that example, there is reason to be concerned over the precedent it sets for government control over the flow of information.

      https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/facebook-censor-alex-jones-705766/

      1. Lauren von Bernuth August 6, 2018

        Yes, I would agree where the issue and concern lies is with government’s intervention…

  13. Judy Metcalf August 6, 2018

    To deny verifiable truth is to deny justice. Jones needs to stop spouting lies.

    Reply
  14. Howard Murray August 7, 2018

    Agree, truth does matter to the Majority of us!

    Reply
  15. Ethan Brunton August 7, 2018

    His ban is indeed censorship. No ifs, ands or buts.

    Reply
  16. Juan Platen August 7, 2018

    Some one should target his family just for payback fun

    Reply
  17. Louise Dodson August 7, 2018

    It seems Facebook is wiser than TV

    Reply
  18. Kevin MacDougal August 7, 2018

    GOOD!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Mary Fink August 7, 2018

      GOOD RIDDANCE..CRAZY MAN!!!

  19. Vernon Howard August 7, 2018

    Bye felicia, hes one pathetically asinine dotart

    Reply
  20. Mary Anne August 7, 2018

    I think censorship is a slippery slope. Plus his piece on Bohemian Grove was
    Interesting.

    Reply
  21. James Fisher August 7, 2018

    He lies constantly and is mostly responsible for nonproven conspiracy over amd over hes found to be Bullshit ….

    Reply
  22. William Smith August 7, 2018

    We deserve everything we get.

    Reply
  23. Pat Ward August 7, 2018

    Hate speech from a racist homophobic sexist bigot.

    Reply
  24. Pat Ward August 7, 2018

    What you give you get, and you got what you deserve.

    Reply
  25. Linda Myrick August 7, 2018

    He needs to see a therapist…..

    Reply
  26. Roy Barnes August 7, 2018

    If it is true it is censorship, if it is a lie like it has been proven, then it is hate speech. Its that simple.

    Reply
  27. Dawn Marie Kicroks August 7, 2018

    If they kick him off, then they need to be consistent and kick everyone off who is full of shit. Basically shut down the web, because let’s be real, it’s all bullshyt.

    Reply
  28. JoAnn Connor August 10, 2018

    Hate speech should not be tolerated!

    Reply
    1. Deb Goodall Martin August 10, 2018

      He should be in jail .

  29. Judith Tribbett August 10, 2018

    No right to be hateful.

    Reply
  30. Michael S Gregory Sr. August 10, 2018

    Nothing but Alternative Facts and Lies with Hate.

    Has to have Supervised Visits with his Own Children.

    Should have been removed a long time ago.

    Reply
  31. Radio Free UK ❌ August 10, 2018

    “Hate Speech or Censorship” What kind of stupid phrase is that?

    Banning *any* speech is censorship… https://t.co/MjerzoX9b0

    Reply
  32. Richard Smiley August 10, 2018

    Alex Jones doesn’t make my list of most admired with his hateful, bizarre ramblings. That being said, I can’t help but wonder if they just got rid of him because he was bad for their brand, affecting their bottom line and not their sense of right and wrong.

    Reply
    1. Amy Heidel August 10, 2018

      His ramblings might seem bizarre to you but to supporters of QAnon, he speaks truth to power. His Pizzagate scenario could have resulted in someone’s death. Incendiary speech is not covered by the First Amendment. But then, the current resident of the White House appears unaware or unconcerned that a reporter might be fatally harmed at one of his “rallies.”

    2. Richard Smiley August 10, 2018

      Trump doesn’t know his right hand from his left hand, he doesn’t care either.

    3. Donna Moniz Lippincott August 10, 2018

      Richard Smiley trump doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground either!!

    4. Richard Smiley August 10, 2018

      Donna Moniz Lippincott , that was my late Father’s favorite line!

  33. Carrie Beard August 10, 2018

    Freedom of speech does not give you the right to lie. These platforms are absolutely right to ban him.

    Reply
    1. Fernando Perez August 10, 2018

      They banned him, not because he lies but because he tells the truth. Don’t let them fool you and see for yourself what he’s actually saying. It could open a whole new world you had no idea existed. infowars.com because there truly is a war for your mind going on, propaganda vs the truth. Listen to both and make up your own mind because they seek to inoculate people against the truth. Don’t be a victim but empower yourself with knowledge.

    2. Carrie Beard August 10, 2018

      Fernando Perez
      If you believe anything Alex Jones says, you must be a special kind of stupid.

  34. Ross Marquez August 10, 2018

    Hate, racism, lie’s, conspiracy theories, thank God he’s gone!

    Reply
  35. Dellene Garlock August 10, 2018

    He should have been removed years ago!!
    It doesn’t matter how long it takes we will reap what we sow. His harvest has arrived.

    Reply
  36. Dana Koskieskuo Barton August 10, 2018

    the government didn’t censor him

    Reply
  37. Pat Ward August 10, 2018

    Good riddance you racist homophobic sexist bigot and hate monger.

    Reply
  38. Anne Nelson August 10, 2018

    a horrible excuse for a human being

    Reply
  39. Kathy Holley August 10, 2018

    Must take responsibility for his hate speech! Freedom of speech also means being responsible for what is said!

    Reply
  40. Angie S. Makinen August 10, 2018

    No one took away his freedom of speech they just took his platform.

    Reply
  41. Larry L. Cunningham October 18, 2018

    Deplorable white man!

    Reply
  42. Charles Freedom October 18, 2018

    Glad this fatso got thrown out.

    Reply

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