Having previously offered international platforms to fringe conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his website Infowars, tech companies Apple, Facebook, and Spotify each took steps to block access to the content late yesterday, reports BuzzFeed News. The companies independently stated that Jones’ content was pulled for containing “hate speech.”
According to the report, Apple has removed all episodes of five Jones and Infowars podcasts from its podcast directories, while Facebook has blocked four Jones and Infowars pages, and Spotify has removed all episodes of The Alex Jones Show. Apple hosts the largest online podcast platform, enabling users of its iTunes and Podcasts apps to find free content from broadcasters around the globe.
The nearly simultaneous actions appeared not to have been coordinated between the companies, but were rather the result of lobbying from online activist group Sleeping Giants, which pushed the tech companies to stop letting their users reach Jones and Infowars. Jones has spent years promoting fringe right-wing conspiracy theories regarding political and social events, as well as encouraging vigilantes to pursue various individuals and conspiracies. He is currently being sued by parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, after claiming that the shooting was a hoax.
BuzzFeed notes that each company has separately explained its decision, including brief statements provided by Apple and Spotify and a lengthy press release issued by Facebook. Apple said that it was pulling the podcasts for containing hate speech, “making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming.” Spotify similarly cited its “hate content” policy that applies to anything that “promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics.”
Facebook noted that it was not pulling Jones’ and Infowars pages over “false news,” but rather due to an unspecified number of “strikes” against its “hate speech,” “glorifying violence,” and “bullying” policies, which were followed by additional user reports.
Since then, more content from the same Pages has been reported to us — upon review, we have taken it 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.
Sleeping Giants this morning praised Apple’s decision while directing pointed criticism at Facebook. “We’ve been asking Facebook for over a year how the harassment of Sandy Hook parents, Vegas shooting victims, and racist screeds are allowed under their Terms of Service,” the activists said in a tweet. “As soon as last week, they said this content didn’t. All credit goes to Apple here for being the first platform to actually enforce their own Terms of Service. Facebook is just trying to … save face.” Sleeping Giants also suggested that Spotify’s action to pull only a single podcast was a half-measure compared with Apple, which left only one of six Infowars-related podcasts in its directory.
Update at 9:12 a.m. Pacific: As discovered by CNN’s Oliver Darcy, YouTube now appears to have banned The Alex Jones Channel for violating its community guidelines, as well.