YouTube, Facebook and Apple Permanently Remove Infowars Channels for Using Hate Speech

Platforms cited repeat violations

Jones, the founder of Infowars, has been accused of publishing hate speech. Facebook: Alex Jones
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YouTube and Facebook have permanently deleted channels and pages associated with Alex Jones, the controversial founder of Infowars, for repeatedly violating their policies related to hateful and violent content.

YouTube’s decision today to remove Jones’s popular channel comes just hours after Facebook removed several pages associated with Jones and Infowars—bringing the social networks in step with Apple, Spotify and Stitcher, which have all recently removed Infowars podcasts from their platforms. Apple removed Jones’s podcasts from iTunes on Sunday.

According to YouTube, Jones received a “strike” on his channel late last month for four videos that violated policies related to hate speech and child endangerment. While a single strike results in a 90-day suspension of livestreaming, Jones attempted to get around the ban by streaming on other channels instead, prompting YouTube to permanently deleted his account.

“All users agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines when they sign up to use YouTube,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement. “When users violate these policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts.”

Facebook said it removed Jones’s Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the InfoWars Page and the Infowars Nightly News for “repeatedly posting content” that violates Facebook’s policies, including policies that ban hate speech and violent content.

While several of the largest social networks have moved to ban Infowars, one notable social network is leaving it intact. Twitter on Monday afternoon said it doesn’t plan to remove Infowars—at least not yet. Infowars and its associated accounts aren’t currently breaking any rules on the platform, a Twitter spokesperson said, adding that Infowars and Jones tend to not always publish the same content to the platform that they do elsewhere.

Infowars, which Jones founded in 1999, has built a following around conspiracy theories. For example, he repeatedly called survivors of mass shootings “crisis actors,” most notably referring to the children slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., as “fake.” Indeed, on Wednesday, six families filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones.

One video removed by YouTube in July showed a man shoving a boy to the ground after grabbing him by the throat—accompanied by the text “how to prevent liberalism—a public service announcement.” Another video criticized children for dressing in drag, while another claimed Islam “conquered” Europe.

In a blog post explaining the decision to remove the pages, Facebook said removing content that violates standards “is not enough to deter repeat offenders.” Along with content “glorifying violence,” Facebook said, the pages it removed had also published content that used “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”

“While much of the discussion around Infowars has been related to false news, which is a serious issue that we are working to address by demoting links marked wrong by fact checkers and suggesting additional content, none of the violations that spurred today’s removals were related to this,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.

Jason Kint, CEO of the online publishing group Digital Content Next, applauded Facebook’s decision and credited Apple “for continuing to lead on a range of issues impacting public trust.”

Fake news has been a common point of criticism against Infowars. During a July congressional hearing about content on social networks, several members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee questioned the heads of policy at Facebook, Twitter and Google about why they hadn’t banned Infowars from their platforms for spreading false information.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., expressed concern over Facebook’s and other companies’ policies regarding “racist, bigoted content.” A little while later, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., who represents the city of Parkland, where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took place in February, pointed out that a video on YouTube posted by Jones falsely accused the survivors of being actors.

“Alex Jones is obviously a well-known conspiracy theorist whose brand is bullying,” Deutch said.

In her written testimony submitted prior to the hearing, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s developer of policy enforcement, cited the company’s removal of thousands of accounts connected to fake news spam. However, when pressed on whether people are allowed to spread false information on Facebook, she said untrue statements on their own don’t violate the company’s policies.

“Sharing false information does not violate our policies,” she said.

Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the removal of his channels. However, in a tweet on Monday morning, Jones addressed the removals, referring people to the Infowars website as “one platform that they can’t ban.”

“We’ve been banned completely on Facebook, Apple, & Spotify,” he wrote. “What conservative news outlet will be next?”

While social platforms have spent the past year and a half trying to address brand safety issues related to hate speech and violence, a number of advertisers have continued to express frustration with the social networks’ decision to allow Infowars and Jones to operate their accounts.

Some brands say they are actively looking at ways to reduce spending on Facebook, at least in part because of the problems the platform continues to have with the spread of false information. However, brands and agencies admit Facebook continues to be a place to efficiently and effectively buy an audience at scale.

This story has been updated.

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.