- The world’s largest platforms for social conversation have taken upon themselves the responsibility to create boundaries for acceptable content based upon their worldview and political predispositions.
- Considering that Google and its platforms, such as YouTube, accounted for 34% of all time spent on digital media in June of 2018, we should be greatly concerned that Google is taking the initiative to determine what content is and is not appropriate for the social conversation.
- Freedom of speech is under assault by corporations.
- Controversies such as this feud between Alex Jones and tech corporations are the front lines of the culture war, and they deserve our prayerful attention and assistance.
“The left is dancing on the grave of Infowars,” Alex Jones Tweeted in response to what appears to be a coordinated effort by corporate giants in technology and social media to censor Alex Jones and his news site, InfoWars. The initial domino fell when Spotify removed some of his podcasts. Within days, Apple removed all but one of Jones’ podcasts from iTunes and its podcast apps. Hours later, Facebook blocked four of Jones’ pages, Google removed the official “Alex Jones Channel” from its platform, YouTube deleted the InfoWars channel, and Pinterest eliminated the InfoWars board. These channels had millions of subscribers and billions of views.
As a political activist, journalist, and documentarian for more than 20 years, Alex Jones has long been a controversial figure. Being a strong Libertarian, Jones is highly skeptical of the government and is a leading conspiracy theorist. He is the founder of the news site InfoWars and is host of the syndicated radio program “The Alex Jones Show.” Although he advocates disruptive methods of political activism, he regularly exhorts his followers to abide by the laws of our country and to avoid violence. Nevertheless, Facebook stated that it is removing four of his pages “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.” Similarly, YouTube, Pinterest, and Spotify cited violations of hate speech policies, content that could lead to harm, and hateful content as justification for the ban.
This comes on the heels of Facebook’s efforts to block advertisements promoting content they deem to be fake news, Google’s experiments with fact checking articles, and Twitter’s shadow bans of conservatives. As such, this issue is far greater than one individual. Alex Jones is merely the latest casualty in a progressive effort to control the social conversation. Alluding to the 2.4 million subscribers to the now deleted Alex Jones YouTube channel, Wikileaks mused on Twitter, “Which publisher in the world with millions of subscribers is next to be wiped out for cultural transgression?”
This may not truly be a First Amendment issue since private companies have the right to determine their own policies, but it certainly begs the question of who should determine what is acceptable social dialogue. The world’s largest platforms for social conversation have taken this responsibility upon themselves and are now creating boundaries for acceptable content based upon their worldview and political predispositions. However, there appears to be an inconsistent standard as YouTube, Facebook, et. al continue to allow some of the most perverse and hate-ridden rhetoric from those with the “correct” political and social views.
President of Media Research Center Brent Bozell warns, “Conservatives are increasingly concerned that Infowars is not the end point for those who want to ban speech. It’s just the beginning. I don’t support Alex Jones and what Infowars produces. He’s not a conservative. However, banning him and his outlet is wrong. It’s not just a slippery slope; it’s a dangerous cliff that these social media companies are jumping off.” Likewise, editor-in-chief of the conservative Daily Caller Ben Shapiro warns that the social media giants “show no signs of limiting their censorship” to InfoWars. Shapiro is no fan of Alex Jones, but he is concerned that these corporations—whom he lumps together with the political left—are using deliberately ambiguous policies and guidelines to target anyone they want under the guise of combating hate speech:
The problem is this: Once you start saying that hate speech is a rationale for banning people from social media, you get into some very vague territory. Because, as we know, the left does not have a consistent standard that they uphold when they are looking at hate speech. They don’t say that anything that is hateful is banned and then define hateful in extraordinarily specific terms. They don’t say anything that is offensive is banned because a lot of things are offensive. Instead, they use this term “hate speech” to simply label stuff they don’t like as hate speech.
I know this because I’ve been targeted—not by social media per se, but by a lot of folks on the left who suggest that I am some kind of provocateur involved in hate speech. What exactly have I said that is hate speech? Well, their favorite is that I don’t use preferred pronouns. So, if somebody like Caitlyn Jenner says that Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, I will still say that Caitlyn Jenner is a man, and I will say that Caitlyn Jenner is a “he.” Alright, this is hate speech according to a lot of folks on the left.
But what’s to prevent Apple or Facebook from removing my content online simply because I don’t abide by their standards? There are rumors today that a lot of these social media giants are going to start banning or restricting content from people whom they deem “climate change deniers.”
… What exactly violates that hate speech policy? So, if I say that transgender people have mental disorders, which they do—ok, gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder is, as you may have noticed from the term gender identity disorder, a disorder—if you say that, is that now hate speech?
What if I say that, while not all Muslims are terrorists, a disproportionate number of terrorists are Muslim? Is that hate speech? Because that is also a fact.
What if I say that immigrants coming to the United States ought to be vetted because we don’t know who is violent and who is not? Is that hate speech? I don’t think it is. I don’t think it even comes close to hate speech.
Considering that Google and its platforms, such as YouTube, accounted for 34% of all time spent on digital media in June of 2018, we should be greatly concerned that Google is taking the initiative to determine what content is and is not appropriate for the social conversation. Freedom of speech is under assault by corporations. Today, conspiracy theories and intolerant language toward transgenders, Muslims, and immigrants are deemed too egregious and vitriolic to expose the public to it. What will be considered too extreme tomorrow?
We already know that many influential corporations believe the Christian message to be intolerant, hateful, and potentially harmful to society. The clock is ticking down. After the conspiracy theorists, xenophobes, and homophobes are silenced, these corporations will turn their attention to the next group espousing intolerant hate speech…Christians who uphold the teachings of the Bible and who say that Jesus is the only way to be saved. We’ve already tasted this in the days surrounding the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. And this has already happened in countries such as Canada and Sweden. If we are not careful, it will happen here in America. The Bible and the Christian message will be censored as hate speech.
Controversies such as this feud between Alex Jones and tech corporations are nothing to be dismissed. They are not irrelevant. Instead, they are the front lines of the culture war and they deserve our prayerful attention and assistance. If we ignore these battles, the culture will eventually target us regardless of how passive we may have been. With nobody left to defend the principles that have allowed the church in America to operate with great freedom, we will rue the day that we chose to ignore issues such as this because we didn’t want to be inconvenienced or because we didn’t agree with the personality under fire.
1. Alex Jones. Twitter Post. August 6, 2018, 11:23 AM. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones/status/1026534308557643778.
2. Timberg, Craig, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Hamza Shaban. “Apple, Facebook and Other Tech Companies Delete Content from Alex Jones.” The Washington Post, August 6, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/08/06/apple-facebook-other-tech-companies-delete-content-alex-jones/?utm_term=.8b7a19b73c5c.
3. Rappoport, Jon. “The War to Destroy Alex Jones, Part One.” InfoWars, August 7, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.infowars.com/the-war-to-destroy-alex-jones-part-one/.
4. Scheer, Holly. “The InfoWars Bans Aren’t about Alex Jones, They’re about Big Tech’s Control Over What We See.” The Federalist, August 7, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://thefederalist.com/2018/08/07/infowars-bans-arent-alex-jones-theyre-big-techs-control-see/.
5. Timberg, Craig, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Hamza Shaban. “Apple, Facebook and Other Tech Companies Delete Content from Alex Jones.”
6. Browne, Ryan. “Facebook, Apple and YouTube Remove Pages and Podcasts from Alex Jones for Hate Speech, Policy Violations.” CNBC, August 6, 2018. Last Updated August 6, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/06/apple-pulls-alex-jones-infowars-podcasts-for-hate-speech.html.
7. Breland, Ali. “Facebook Blocks Ads from Fake News Pages.” The Hill, August 28, 2017. Accessed August 7, 2018. http://thehill.com/policy/technology/348290-facebook-bans-pages-sharing-fake-news-from-buying-ads.
8. Funke, Daniel. “Google Suspends Fact-Checking Feature Over Quality Concerns.” Poynter, January 19, 2018. Accessed August 8, 2018. https://www.poynter.org/news/google-suspends-fact-checking-feature-over-quality-concerns.
9. “Undercover Video: Twitter Engineers to ‘Ban a Way of Talking,’ Through ‘Shadow Banning,’ Algorithms to Censor Opposing Political Opinions.” Project Veritas, January 11, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.projectveritas.com/2018/01/11/undercover-video-twitter-engineers-to-ban-a-way-of-talking-through-shadow-banning-algorithms-to-censor-opposing-political-opinions/.
10. Wikileaks. Twitter Post. August 6, 2018, 9:10 AM. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/1026500710194708483?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1026500710194708483&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rt.com%2Fusa%2F435259-infowars-ban-twitter-reacts%2F.
11. Timberg, Craig, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Hamza Shaban. “Apple, Facebook and Other Tech Companies Delete Content from Alex Jones.”
12. Muñoz, Gabriella and Stephen Dinan. “Alex Jones Shutdown Ignites Debate Over Social Media Content Policing, Censorship.” The Washington Times, August 6, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/aug/6/alex-jonesinfowars-shutdown-ignites-debate-over-so/.
14. TRUTHBOMBS. “Ben Shapiro REACTS to ALEX JONES’ Banning: ‘He’s a Crazy Liar but He Shouldn’t Be Banned.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=pQmgWVIPM00&feature=youtu.be (accessed August 8, 2018).
15. Fischer, Sara. “Google Consumes One-Third of Our Digital Minds.” Axios, August 7, 2018. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.axios.com/google-one-third-time-spent-online-youtube-waze-a2c2ed61-2140-42bb-bb2b-c81dbbf9ca8d.html.
16. Clark, Heather. “Canadian Supreme Court Rules Biblical Speech Opposing Homosexual Behavior Is a ‘Hate Crime.’” Christian News, February 28, 2013. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://christiannews.net/2013/02/28/canadian-supreme-court-rules-biblical-speech-opposing-homosexual-behavior-is-a-hate-crime/.
17. Mohler, Albert. “Criminalizing Christianity: Sweden’s Hate Speech Law.” Christian Headlines, n.d. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/al-mohler/criminalizing-christianity-swedens-hate-speech-law-1277601.html.