Technology companies have been at the center of the storm regarding their accountability for the content that users post on their online platforms. In the past companies would contest their responsibility but with increasing pressure, most platforms have been forced to work on mechanisms that help them weed out problematic content. The scope of problematic content ranging from anything that is discriminatory and insensitive to misinformation, fake news, and hateful speech. In what seems like a definitive action from technology companies, major players including Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Pinterest have taken down or ban content related to Infowars and its owner Alex Jones.
According to a detailed update report by The Verge, major technology players finally took concrete actions against Infowars and Alex Jones. For people who may not have followed Jones and his media platform, both these entities are known for spreading conspiracy theories as part of their regular programming. A number of complaints have also been issued against Jones and Infowars for spreading hate speech. As pointed out in the report, these theories include the controversy where Infowars and Jones called survivors of Sandy Hook school shooting in the USA as “crisis actors” and “global pedophilia rings” run by elite members of society in Washington DC and Hollywood.
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Similar to WhatsApp fake news and disinformation problem, Jones and Infowars have been responsible for physical violence in the real world. In spite of how most digital platforms are trying to combat such serious issues regarding hate speech and fake news, there was no active action taken against Infowars and Jones.
However, everything changed when Apple removed five out of six Infowars podcasts on August 6, 2018, which was followed by Facebook taking down four Infowars pages from its platform. Facebook stated that these pages went against the policies set by Facebook by “dehumanizing immigrants”, and “glorifying violence”. Actions by Facebook and Apple were followed by YouTube which removed the primary channel of Jones from the platform.
Pinterest also took action by shutting down the page of Infowars on the platform. This was not all as Spotify also took down all of the podcasts that Jones had uploaded on the platform after initially only deciding to remove some of them. In statements provided by all these platforms, it was evident that this action was in response to hate speech and intolerant views that Infowars propagated.
Twitter has not taken any action against Jones stating that he does not violate any of its rules. The official app of Infowars is still available on Apple App Store in spite of actions. According to the report, Gab, a social media platform that is similar to Twitter, issued a statement welcoming Jones and Infowars.