Monday, 6 August 2018

Apple Kicked Alex Jones Off Its Platform Then YouTube And Facebook Rushed To Do The Same

The removals are one of the largest crackdowns on conspiratorial news content by technology companies to date.

Some of the world's largest social media and tech companies kicked Alex Jones and his conspiracy-theory driven show, InfoWars, off their platforms on Monday after months of hand-wringing about how to handle a personality who claimed he was delivering news but didn't deal in facts.
Apple moved first, striking the entire library for five of Infowars' six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcasts apps. Among the podcasts, which were removed from Apple's iTunes directory, are the show War Room and the popular Alex Jones Show podcast, which is hosted daily by the prominent conspiracy theorist.
After that, platforms that have come under far more scrutiny for hosting Jones and his content — Facebook and YouTube — quickly followed suit after long and tortured deliberations. Spotify also did the same.
Apple's decision to remove all episodes of Jones' popular show — rather than just specific offending episodes — is one of the largest enforcement actions intended to curb conspiratorial news content by a technology company to date. Apple did not host Jones' shows, but it offered an index that allowed anyone with an iPhone to find and subscribe to them. Though Apple is far from Jones and Infowars' only distribution platform, the decision to pull Jones' content will considerably limit the outlet's audio reach — as of 2018, Apple's Podcasts platform amassed 50 billion all-time downloads and streams.
In a statement Sunday evening to BuzzFeed News, Apple confirmed that it notified Jones of the decision to remove the five shows under its hate speech guidelines earlier this weekend. "Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users," a company spokesperson said. "Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
Facebook confirmed on Monday morning that it had removed four pages promoting Jones and his shows: the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Nightly News Page, and the Infowars Page.
In a lengthy press release, a Facebook spokesperson said the pages were taken 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."
Facebook last week removed four of Jones' videos for violating hate speech and bullying rules and suspended Jones himself from being a page admin for 30 days. This further action was taken after more videos were reported by users.
A Spotify spokesperson confirmed on Monday morning that the company has removed all episodes of The Alex Jones Show, after it removed some selected episodes last week. Spotify's hate content policy prohibits anything that "expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics." The policy warns that repeat offenders will be removed from the platform.
Following the lead of Apple and then Facebook, YouTube removed Jones' channel from its platform on Monday afternoon, noting that Infowars violated its community guidelines. Jones had been warned by the company that his live-streaming privileges were suspended for 90 days, however Jones attempted to livestream on other channels in clear violation of YouTube's rules.
The sweeping move is just the latest in a line of technology companies taking action against Jones and Infowars for violating rules against hateful content. Last month YouTube pulled down four videos posted by Jones and the podcast app Stitcher removed Jones' audio show, citing hateful content policies.
As the internet's largest podcast platform, Apple faced pressure all week from media and activists to remove Jones and Infowars from its services. Sleeping Giants, the online activist group that has lobbied for tech platforms to cut all ties with Jones, roundly condemned Apple last week for being slow to join Spotify and Stitcher, suggesting Jones' content routinely breaks the company's terms of service.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Sleeping Giants praised the removal on Sunday night. "While companies like Facebook, YouTube and Spotify have been twisting themselves into pretzels inventing ways to avoid having to enforce their own Terms Of Service on Alex Jones, it’s great to hear that Apple, whose reach is so broad, is willing to do it," a spokesperson for the company wrote.
Despite Jones' long track record of pushing fringe conspiracies — in recent weeks Jones has pushed the baseless conspiracy theory that Democrats were planning to start a civil war this July 4 — the sweeping nature of Apple's content crackdown is likely to rekindle an ongoing political and cultural battle over the role that tech platforms have in moderating misinformation, propaganda, and hate speech.
As of Sunday evening, only one Infowars podcast — a daily news recap show called Real News With David Knight — remains on the platform. It's not immediately clear why the show was unaffected; Apple declined to comment on the status of Real News With David Knight. Similarly, the company declined to comment on the Infowars app, which currently remains available for download in Apple's app store.
Alex Jones did not respond to a request for comment.
Infowars has condemned the removals, citing censorship. "This is the modern day electronic equivalent of book burning," a post on the site reads. "This is throwing dissidents in the Big Tech gulag because their voices were becoming too loud and having too much influence. This is the purge. This is election meddling and COLLUSION."

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