FEATURED IMAGE | Source: Infowars
On August 5, 2018, Apple removed five of Alex Jones’ podcasts for violating hate speech policies. The following day, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify made similar decisions to remove Jones’ content from their platforms.
Jones and his right-wing site Infowars have used social media to spread bizarre theories to his millions of subscribers. Jones has recently been under fire for spreading misinformation about the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, calling the event a hoax. The tech companies that have blocked Jones’ accounts say they made the move not because of Jones’ conspiracy theories, but because his content promotes and incites hatred against people. Facebook pointed to specific policy violations, including “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.”
Among the social media giants, Twitter stood out because it did not ban Alex Jones despite external pressure to do so. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company’s decision through a tweet made on August 7: Jones “hasn’t violated our rules” but “we’ll enforce if he does.” A week after this statement was made, Twitter temporarily suspended Alex Jones for tweeting a link to a video calling for supporters to ready their “battle rifles.” Some say Twitter didn’t go far enough.
Tech workers on Blind have been discussing Dorsey’s stance on Jones, with some in favor of the CEO’s decision and others arguing that Dorsey is uninformed when it comes to Twitter’s policies. We reached out to Blind’s community to find out how many people in tech are in favor or against Twitter’s actions towards Jones. What we discovered is that the majority of our surveyed users would like Alex Jones banned from the popular social media platform. Among just Twitter employees, only 21.43 percent have the same sentiment. Here are the details of our latest survey:
- Should Twitter ban Alex Jones from its platform?
- A) Yes – 61.18 percent (Overall), 21.43 percent (Twitter employees)
- B) No – 38.82 percent (Overall), 78.57 percent (Twitter employees)
- Total Participants: 5,137
- Survey Dates: August 18, 2018 – August 24, 2018
Twitter hasn’t bowed to pressure to ban Alex Jones but the backlash it has received has moved the company to re-examine its platform. Dorsey told the Washington Post that he is exploring changes to core elements of the service, and revisiting the incentives that Twitter uses to shape how people engage and interact on the platform.
The furor over Alex Jones has brought more attention to the ongoing discussion of censorship on social media. Increasing pressure is placed on Silicon Valley companies to moderate hateful, violent, and false content but to do so without appearing partisan or curbing free speech. It’s a tough job that all of today’s matured social media companies are being asked to lead.