Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Is Losing Followers After Social Media Ban: New York Times Analysis
It has been nearly a month since a handful of Silicon Valley’s most powerful tech companies purged Infowars, the conspiracy-mongering "news" site, and its leader Alex Jones from their platforms. According to a new analysis by the New York Times, Jones’ imperium is suffering the consequences today.
In early August, Facebook "unpublished” four of Jones’ pages for violating “community standards,” after facing a backlash for not taking action previously in its supposed battle against fake news. At the time, Facebook followed suit after Apple removed five of the six Infowars podcasts from its Podcasts app. YouTube also terminated an Infowars channel that had 2.4 million subscribers, and Spotify removed one of Jones' podcasts.
Some speculated such a purge would only prompt his followers to go elsewhere — and some reports suggested that was likely. Indeed, Infowars became the top trending app on the Google Play store a few days after the ban. According to a new analysis conducted by the New York Times, however, exclusion from these platforms has impacted Jones’ viewership.
Before the ban, Infowars had an average of 1.4 million daily visits to its website, which included views of videos posted by its main YouTube and Facebook pages, according to the report. The Times analyzed the data from web data firms Tubular Labs and SimilarWeb. Nearly three weeks after the bans, the website’s visits had decreased by nearly 50 percent—to 715,000 site visits and video views. While this analysis does not include traffic to the Infowars app, or views of its videos on Twitter, it does show the influence tech companies have over the distribution of such a site.
This aises one important question which many have been asking as of late: Why is Alex Jones still allowed on Twitter? According to the Wall Street Journal’s latest report, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey allegedly intervened personally to keep Jones on the platform. The Journal reports:
Last month, after Twitter’s controversial decision to allow far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to remain on its platform, Mr. Dorsey told one person that he had overruled a decision by his staff to kick Mr. Jones off, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Twitter disputes that account and says Mr. Dorsey wasn’t involved in those discussions.
Twitter’s chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, disputed the claim in a statement.
“Any suggestion that Jack made or overruled any of these decisions is completely and totally false,” Gadde said, as quoted by the Journal. "Our service can only operate fairly if it’s run through consistent application of our rules, rather than the personal views of any executive, including our CEO.”
As Salon's Matthew Rosza wrote in August, Dorsey has been inconsistent in his approach to these matters. When Facebook, YouTube, Apple and Spotify banded together last month, Dorsey said on Twitter that Jones was not banned because he didn’t violate any of the platform's rules. In July 2016, Twitter banned former Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos from the platform for provoking harassment against "Ghostbusters" actress Leslie Jones.
Dorsey is set to appear before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Wednesday where he will likely address such issues. According to his prepared testimony, released on Wednesday, Dorsey will tell the committee: “Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules.”