Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify ban Infowars: A conspiracy theorist’s dream? | Social

Alex Jones gestures with his hands at his broadcast desk.

Alex Jones blasted tech companies removing Infowars from their platforms Monday in a live stream on Twitter’s Periscope service. 

Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

In a move presaged by weeks of mounting pressure, four major technology platforms — Apple, Facebook, Google’s and — all cracked down on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars media empire with widespread content removal or total account termination, all seeming to culminate within about 24 hours. 

Was it a long-overdue crackdown or a censorship conspiracy? Depends who you ask. The truth — wait, does that still exist? — is probably neither. But in a hyper divisive era, the opaque way that tech companies employ their community standards leaves them open to being villainized by both sides, even those straining at opposite ends of a political tug-of-war. 

“As long as Infowars was removed for actual violations of their policies, “good riddance,” said Jason Kint, the chief executive of a trade group for online news publications, Digital Content Next. 

But that lack of transparency muddies the waters. “We still want them to be very cautious about anything that is close to censorship,” he said. “Being crystal clear about their policies and how this is a violation of their policies would be helpful.”

Jones has been widely criticized for promoting untrue, virulent hypotheses about tragic events like the 2001 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center in New York that killed nearly 3,000 people and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 26 students and staff. 

Jones and his backers were quick to call it a coordinated move to suppress them. “Authoritarian tech titans Facebook, YouTube, and Apple banned us from their platforms on the same day in a coordinated communist-style crackdown,” Jones’ said in a report leading its website. Nigel Farage, a U.K. right-wing populist politician, tweeted it was a “collusion by the big tech giants” and Wikileaks compared the tech companies to the dark side of Star Wars: 

On the flip side, “this was not about right or left, but right and wrong,” tweeted Sleeping Giants, a media activists group. Shaun King, a widely followed justice columnist, said “Alex Jones never should’ve been allowed to get this far spreading hate.” 

Sunday, Apple confirmed that five of the six podcasts that Infowars creates were no longer be available for download or streaming, including the daily Alex Jones Show podcast. Spotify, which had been selectively removing podcasts linked to Jones late last week, also removed them from its service entirely, according to a statement Monday.

Facebook said in a blog post Monday that it removed the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page. 

And on YouTube, Infowars biggest channel — The Alex Jones Channel with 2.4 million subscribers — was erased Monday and replaced with the message “this account has been terminated for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”

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