Notorious far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has seen his InfoWars site banned from much of social media over the past several days. Facebook, YouTube, and Apple have all terminated his accounts and removed his content. But Twitter resolutely refuses to follow suit — a fact for which Jones himself has praised the site.
And on Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey offered an explanation:
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Twitter ostensibly prohibits harassment, and "hateful conduct" targeted at a group of people. "Jones has repeatedly degraded individuals of the Muslim faith. He has attacked people on the basis of gender identity. And he has engaged in the harassment of individuals," writes Oliver Darcy.
Moreover, Twitter's vice president for trust and safety, Del Harvey, recently stated that if Jones had posted the the same content on Twitter that had gotten him removed from platforms like YouTube and Facebook, "we would have taken action against him as well." But CNN's investigation shows several of those exact same videos were, in fact, uploaded to Twitter too.
In addition to his rants about government weather control and chemical warfare on the population that turns frogs gay, Jones is known for spreading inflammatory, hateful content. He has extensively promoted the claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax staged by the government, for which he is now facing a lawsuit brought by the parents of the victims. He also threatened violence against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has promoted the "Pizzagate" child trafficking conspiracy theory that led a gunman to attack a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., and has made anti-Semitic claims about a "Jewish Mafia" that allegedly controls Uber and the American health care industry.
Dorsey seems particularly ill-prepared to deal with the controversy, as he chose to defend his decision not to ban Alex Jones in an interview with Sean Hannity, the far-right Fox News commentator who is himself known for spreading hateful conspiracy theories.
Big tech companies are facing massive social problems, as well as an opportunity to sincerely address them. Dorsey's decisions will have consequences, and we will all have to deal with the result.
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