Why Twitter Didn't Ban Fake News Grubs Infowars And Alex Jones
Twitter "should not be the arbiter of truth," the company said.
In the past week, news site Infowars -- best known for pushing conspiracy theories such as 'Pizzagate' and other crackpot claims about 9/11 and the Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shootings -- has been banned and removed from some of the biggest online platforms in the world.
Spotify and Apple banned the podcasts, Youtube took down the organisation's video pages, Facebook removed several social media pages connected with the site and its founder Alex Jones, and even Pinterest and LinkedIn kicked Infowars off.
It left just one major news platform as a host of the controversial site:
The micro-blogging site has been heavily criticised in recent times for not only allowing white supremacists and conspiracy peddlers like Richard Spencer to remain online, but for even verifying their profiles. Many hoped Twitter would follow the lead set by other Silicon Valley tech giants.
However, not only has Twitter founder Jack Dorsey decided not to kick Infowars off, but he defended the site's right to spread dangerous and harmful conspiracy theories, and said journalists and others users should step up to fact-check Jones and his employees.
Infowars began as a public access television and radio show in Texas in the late 1990s, and today has broadened to a sprawling network of video broadcasts, live streaming on social media, online articles and podcasts. The virulently right-wing organisation's website, which receives millions of hits per month, also hosts a bizarre online store selling vitamins, shampoo, 'vitality' supplements, survival gear, and an assortment of equipment to survive a nuclear event.
Jones has become known for his often bizarre performances on camera, where he often rips his shirt off.
Jones and a cabal of other hosts regularly spruik conspiracy theories about a 'deep state' plot to bring down U.S. President Donald Trump, claims the world is on the brink of an imminent biblical apocalypse, and that Hillary Clinton's family are devil worshippers.
Most prominently, Jones spread claims the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, where 20 children and six adults were killed, was a 'false flag' attack, and that the victims and other people seen on TV broadcasts were actors. Jones is currently facing two separate, million-dollar lawsuits over those claims.
Infowars has also been heavily criticised for spreading other evidence-free theories around the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Marjory Stoneman school shooting, chemtrails, immigrants, crime, and weather control, and was also a major booster of the 'Pizzagate' claims of a child sex trafficking ring in Hollywood and the Democratic Party.
It is unclear why, after years of controversy, the tech giants chose this week to boot Infowars. But within a few days, Spotify and Apple had removed the podcasts; Facebook deleted four Infowars-linked pages; and even Pinterest shut down their profiles. Twitter and Instagram remain the only major social networks to still host the network.
"As a result of reports we received, last week, we removed four videos on four Facebook Pages for violating our hate speech and bullying policies," Facebook said in a statement, adding Jones himself was blocked from posting as admin of the pages.
The social media giant said Infowars pages had been removed for "glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants."
"All four Pages have been unpublished for repeated violations of Community Standards and accumulating too many strikes."
For their part, Infowars has responded by asking 'Was Deep State Involved In Banning Infowars?' Jones claimed "the internet Dark Ages has now descended upon us", claiming "an organized criminal racket".
However, Facebook added Infowars pages had not been removed on the basis of 'false news'.
This was the defence used by Twitter boss Dorsey, who claimed deleting Infowars profiles would only "make us feel good in the short term" and "[add] fuel to new conspiracy theories." Shirking responsibility for the content published on his own platform, Dorsey even said it was the job of journalists to police fake news from Jones and Infowars.
Twitter's official safety account said the platform "should not be the arbiter of truth nor do we have scalable solutions to determine and action what’s true or false", sharing a link to its enforcement policy.
Dorsey's five-tweet thread did not go down well, with many journalists calling out his stance.
Other Twitter users also took Dorsey to task.
While Twitter has come under fire for its stance, it seems unlikely to change, with the platform still allowing certain politicians to threaten nuclear war -- which seems a clear breach of codes around violence and harassment.