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The InfoWars Purge Shows Tech Companies Can no Longer be Outwitted With Content

The InfoWars Purge Shows Tech Companies Can no Longer be Outwitted With Content

The Silicon Valley companies are reacting to the spread of hate speech, by Alex Jones in this case, and this is perhaps just the start.

The Silicon Valley is finally reacting to a man named Alexander Emric Jones, an American radio show host and a controversial conspiracy theorist. Jones hosts a program known as The Alex Jones Show, and has been popular for his opinions on many issues. The run seems to be coming to an end, as the major tech platforms are stalling his bid to spread sometimes unverified and often outlandish views, along with his InfoWars network.

Now, it has really hit the fan for InfoWars and Alex Jones. And it has been a long time coming.

It all began when streaming service YouTube removed a Jones' videos for spreading hate speech, as defined by the platform's guidelines, in February. The video in question was on the Alex Jones Channel, InfoWars' YouTube account, titled "David Hogg Can't Remember His Lines In TV Interview". In the video, Jones suggested that one of the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was a "crisis actor". In an official statement at the time, YouTube said, "Last summer we updated the application of our harassment policy to include hoax videos that target the victims of these tragedies. Any video flagged to us that violates this policy is reviewed and then removed."

The fallout of this bad publicity was that in March, popular advertisers such as Nike, Paramount and Acer asked YouTube to not place their adverts on the platform, next to InfoWars videos. While the placement of these adverts is based on algorithms in place, and not necessarily manually put there, the companies didn't want to be associated at all with InfoWars in any way.

Along the way, Jones has published videos which have included hate speech against a particular religion, hate speech against transgender people and also visually depicted violence against children. These are multiple strikes, whichever way one looks at this issue. Jones and InfoWars have been banned by YouTube and Facebook, as recently as July.

However, things really came to a head this week. Facebook removed Alex Jones' pages from the social media platform, citing repeated violations-the pages include the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Page, and the Infowars Nightly News Page. The page has over a million followers, at the time of the purge. "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. These pages were the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page. In addition, one of the admins of these Pages - Alex Jones - was placed in a 30-day block for his role in posting violating content to these Pages.

"Since then, more content from the same Pages has been reported to us - upon review, we have taken it down for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies," says Facebook in an official statement. In July, Facebook was asked at the House Judiciary Committee hearing as to why the InfoWars pages were still up and not yet banned for spreading conspiracy theories.

Perhaps Silicon Valley wanted to prove a point. YouTube has a "three strikes policy" which Jones exploited to the fullest. The YouTube policy states that if a user posts three offending videos, the channel gets banned. But there's a loophole in how the system handled it, and Jones exploited it-by appearing on streams and videos posted by other users. According to the way YouTube handles this, a user must log in to YouTube and view the strike against them before it gets counted and implemented. And if they still posted multiple offending videos before they logged in to view and register the strike, those offending videos are counted into one single strike. The channel on YouTube had over 2 million subscribers.

Facebook's action was followed by popular streaming service Spotify removing podcast content posted by Jones on the streaming service. Then, Apple removed the Alex Jones' podcasts from the iTunes platform. "Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.

As of this moment, one content sharing platform that hasn't yet purged Alex Jones and InfoWars' pages is Twitter. Surely, Twitter is also monitoring the content being posted there as we speak. Jones has more than 8,00,000 followers on the platform.

first published:August 07, 2018, 10:02 IST