Over the course of Aug. 5 and 6, Alex Jones was permanently logged out of his Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify accounts.
The platforms decided that enough was enough. Jones, the host and head of Infowars, had violated their anti-hate speech rules and it was time for him to go. Some of Jones’ most recent offensive content includes hate speech against Muslims, hate speech against transgender people and a video called “How to prevent liberalism” that shows an adult physically harassing a child.
Apple made the first move by pulling the plug on five out of six of Jones’ podcasts. Next came Facebook, which unpublished several of Jones’ pages and suspended his personal account, then Spotify, which removed all episodes of the Alex Jones Show, and Youtube, which deleted Infowar channels.
Facebook released a press statement claiming that Jones’ content features “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”
The whole situation has warranted a look back at Facebook’s hate speech policy, which is very similar to that of the other platforms.
Facebook defines hate speech as “a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation.”
So, it should come as no surprise that these social media giants saw fit to shut down Jones’ offensive, and extremely hateful, accounts.
The one social media platform that hasn’t locked down Jones’ content is arguably the most problematic one. Twitter has had a history of being lax on its hate speech policies and for doing a weak job at shutting down offensive and troll accounts.
With credentials like these, many aren’t surprised that Twitter’s CEO Dorsey refused to ice out Alex Jones. Many are surprised, however, that Dorsey seems to be defending Jones in a lengthy thread he posted on Aug. 7.
“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’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.
“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. 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.”
It’s crazy to think that Twitter is taking a hands-off approach to dealing with hate speech, especially when the platform is so popular with hateful right-wing groups. Jones’ rants have serious implications in the real world, such as when his Pizzagate theory led to a man entering the DC pizza place with an AR-15 assault rifle and intent to kill. Instead of making Jones responsible for his actions, as the other platforms are trying to do, Twitter instead opted to ignore the online and real-life threat that Jones presents.
Good luck with this decision, Twitter, because there’s no coming back from it.