By Ryan Eaton
Alex Jones is a radio show host best known for his bold, and sometimes offensive, conspiracy theories. He hosts The Alex Jones Show and runs the website Infowars.com. So why has he been in the headlines recently?
It started on February 23rd when Facebook issued The Alex Jones Channel a first strike after publishing a video where Alex Jones accused David Hogg, survivor of the Parkland school shooting and political activist, of being a crisis actor (a pretend shooting victim to carry out a hoax). This, unfortunately, was just the start. Three days later, YouTube issued another strike after Infowars posted a video with continued accusations that Parkland was a hoax containing additional conspiracies supposedly intertwined with the shooting. In March, YouTube took down the Infowars account for bullying and harassment… only temporarily, closely following their three-strike policy. In March, advertisers began pulling their ads from of Alex Jones videos across all of his channels.
In June, other platforms began joining in after Amazon was criticized for still having Jones’ documentaries. In late July, YouTube removes multiple Alex Jones videos involving hate speech directed towards Muslims and transgender people… only temporarily, again, still closely following their policies. In the following days, Facebook removes a handful of Alex Jones’ videos and Spotify takes down several of his podcasts. Finally, on August 6th, Facebook permanently removes all of his channels- the day after Apple deleted him from their podcasts. Soon after, Vimeo and Amazon also take action. Exactly one month after Facebook’s ban, Twitter permanently removes Alex Jones from their site.
So how did these sites take so long to ban hate speech and vastly opposed content? Though many of the sites did not agree with or support what Alex Jones had been posting, they felt like removing it would violate his right to free speech. The technicality of the situation resulted in a long and arduous series of events that eventually came to an end when each platform decided enough was enough.
Critics of these platforms banning Alex Jones’s content are saying it was a rash decision resulting from public pressure. However, each site was careful and patient throughout the process. Twitter, who made the most recent ban, waited until they had more than enough instances of abusive behavior and hate speech. YouTube was also patient and refused to veer from their set rules on banning users, ensuring Alex Jones’ channels were violating enough to be banned.
Regardless of opinion, the Alex Jones banning sequence set a precedent for how freedom of online content will continue in the future. Once considered a free realm, with no rules or regulations, the privatization of social media sites and other platforms have changed the relationship between internet users and freedom. Though some content can be heinous and insensitive, one question remains (and might soon be answered): when it comes to the internet, how much is too much?
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