This past week, tech platforms cracked down on career conspiracy theorist and disseminator of falsehoods Alex Jones. Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes deleted content associated with his media outlet InfoWars, with Facebook and YouTube taking the extra step of completely wiping all of Jones’ profiles from their platforms.
Whether or not you agree with how these platforms are dealing with Jones and his media empire, what’s undeniable is that it has provided him the perfect opportunity to play the victim. It also plays into the right-wing conspiracy theory that says conservatives are being unfairly targeted and silenced across social media. Either way, the banning of Jones’ content ironically gave him an opportunity to spread another falsehood: that he’s being “censored.”
Jones’ First Amendment rights aren’t being attacked. Like any publisher, he can say and write whatever he wants on his websites. Like any publisher, he utilizes social media to disseminate the things he says to his followers. Like any publisher, he’s subject to those social media platforms throttling his content, or even deleting his content if it violates their terms of service. Given Jones’ high profile coupled with the vile things he and his affiliate entities have said, the fact that this action finally came shouldn’t be surprising — least of all, to Jones himself.
In a tweet from this Tuesday, Alex Kasprak of Snopes pointed out that Jones’ claims of censorship are easily refuted on his own website’s terms of service.
"It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted. All civilizations have rules and if you violate them you can expect to be ostracized from the tribe" — https://t.co/z3UL69rGsg terms of service https://t.co/nFrN6HrvbA
— Alex H. Kasprak (@alexkasprak) August 7, 2018
Sure enough, if you scroll down to section 19’s “Publishing Rules” on InfoWars’ terms of service, it reads:
Remember: you are a guest here. It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted. All civilizations have rules and if you violate them you can expect to be ostracized from the tribe.
Every platform that took action against Jones this week cited the fact that they were doing so due to his repeated violations of their TOS. It’s not the government or the “deep state” that’s booting Jones from tech platforms. He’s not being singled out because he holds a particular political belief. YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, and Apple are all private companies and they can enforce whatever set of guidelines they like. They can even change their guidelines if they choose to do so.
Words come with accountability. Jones chose to tell his millions of followers that the Sandy Hook massacre was a “false flag” operation and that the suffering, grief, and deaths that resulted were all a “hoax.” When you slander innocent people in a public forum, any repercussions that come as a result are not stifling your right to free speech. It’s not censorship.
“Like any marketplace, the marketplace of ideas that the First Amendment was meant to protect cannot function properly without accountability for reprehensible conduct like the defendants,” plaintiffs argued in the recent defamation case against Jones. “The First Amendment has never protected demonstrably false, malicious statements like the defendants.”
The timing and intellectual consistency of Facebook, YouTube, and any other platform that chooses to act against Jones in the future is definitely a subject ripe for debate. But ultimately, it’s what any business would do if someone tracked in dog shit from outside — they’d politely, yet firmly get shown to the door.
[H/T @alexkasprak] Featured image via screen grab