After several social media outlets banned alt-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his show InfoWars earlier this week, Twitter announced it would be keeping Jones, sparking backlash from users.
“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,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote. Jones, who has become notorious for hosting The Alex Jones Show on InfoWars, has more than 860,000 followers on Twitter.
On Monday, sites such as YouTube and Facebook banned Jones and his pages from their platforms, claiming that Jones’s videos violated the sites’ hate speech guidelines.
Jones has repeatedly used language incendiary towards Muslim and transgender people, and in July he appeared to threaten to shoot U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating President Trump and his White House on possible ties to Russia.
“[Mueller is] a demon I will take down, or I’ll die trying,” Jones said on a July broadcast, miming a gun-firing motion with his hands. “You’re going to get it, or I’m going to die trying, bitch.”
In the past, Jones has baselessly alleged the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Connecticut were hoaxes perpetrated by the U.S. government.
Several parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting are suing Jones for defamation. In a court document, the parents of one of the slain children claimed Jones broadcast his personal information on his show. At the time of its removal, Jones’s YouTube channel had more than 2.4 million subscribers, with 1.5 billion views across all of its videos.
Twitter’s hateful conduct guidelines bar “wishes for the physical harm, death, or disease of individuals or groups” as well as “behavior that incites fear about a protected group.”
“We do not tolerate behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another person’s voice,” the site’s guidelines say.
While Dorsey acknowledged in a Tweet that accounts such as InfoWars can “sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors,” he also wrote that it “serves the public conversation best” for “journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly.”
Several journalists pushed back against Dorsey’s request.
“I am not getting paid to clean up your website for you,” wrote Matt Pearce, a journalist for The Los Angeles Times, in a response to Dorsey’s Tweet.
Twitter has banned significant alt-right personalities in the past.
In 2016, alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who has ties to white nationalist groups, was permanently banned from the site after instigating racist and sexist harassment against American actress Leslie Jones, who is black.
And in 2017, Twitter suspended the account of James Allsup, a white nationalist who spoke at the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier that year.
“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,” Dorsey wrote Tuesday. (VOA)