Led by Apple’s decision to ban accounts of Alex Jones’ controversial conspiracy theory show, Infowars, other tech giants have followed including Facebook, Youtube and Spotify. His content has been taken down due to his use of hate speech. For the past 19 years, Jones has been known to spread offensive ideas and false news on various social media platforms. According to Vox, Jones receives around ten million views a month on his official website and has 2.4 million subscribers on YouTube.
One of Jones’ most infamous conspiracy theories is that the Sandy Hook shooting was an elaborate hoax created by gun-control groups, leading his supporters to constantly harass the parents of the victims. The family eventually filed a successful lawsuit against Jones for defamation, along with two other defamation lawsuits.
“Speech should be taken down if hurtful to others because what you say does not impact you only, it impacts others far and wide too especially in the case of Alex Jones, who has a great impact on his supporters,” Senior Sarthak Dassarma said.
Jones’ racist and xenophobic views are shown through the consistent spread of false news and hate speech via his podcast, show and social media accounts. During the 2016 election, he repeatedly targeted immigrants, posted videos against liberalism and Muslims and another on transgender people. The issue does not solely lie with Jones’ hateful words: as in the case of the Sandy Hook shooting, Jones’ hateful words have translated to hateful action, prompting social media platforms to step in and regulate Jones’ content, as many had been calling for for years prior.
The pressure has long been on tech companies to act against hate speech, rather than remaining staunchly neutral. Multiple tech companies, specifically Facebook and Twitter, have admitted to holding off on banning Jones’ content. Facebook claims they did not want to restrict one’s thoughts on what is true or not or potentially anger his supporters. Twitter has previously suspended Jones’ account for a week, but had refused take any further action until Jones committed abusive behavior towards a CNN reporter at a Congressional hearing, breaking their policy and prompting them to ban his accounts.
Ultimately, Facebook removed four of his pages, blocking him for 30 days, Spotify removed “The Alex Jones Show”, YouTube blocked his channels, and Apple removed five Infowars podcasts.
“Companies did not take action until now because no one really paid attention until Jones’ content got brought up more often on social media. It did not affect the companies until their customers started to stop using their website or product due to his videos,” Sophomore Olivia Kukar said.
Many argue that banning Infowars is violating the First Amendment. However, acording to the San Francisco Chronicle, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Apple are privately owned companies, and therefore are allowed to restrict the content of their users.
In a time of political polarization, the platforms’ actions represents the end of the long-standing neutrality these companies have maintained.