Alex Jones’ Supporters Still Don’t Understand What “Free Speech” Means
More and more companies are banning Alex Jones from using their platforms to spew his hateful conspiracy theories and racist and antisemitic drivel. Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube have all removed Jones’ content from their sites. If you’ve spent any time at all on the internet, you can probably guess what that means. Yup, a lot of misinformed conservative supporters yelling about “freedom of speech.”
I don’t know how many years its been since XKCD laid out the perfect simple explainer for this issue, but it’s definitely too many to still be having this conversation.
Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube aren’t violating Alex Jones’ freedom of speech. They’re not “censoring” him. All of those sites are welcome to draw a line as to what violates their terms of service, which Jones would have agreed to when creating an account. If they decide spreading violent rhetoric around asinine conspiracy theories or saying the parents of murdered children are propagating a “hoax” is over that line, that’s their decision.
Speaking of terms of service, Alex Jones and Infowars have them, too. Basically all companies do. It seems like Jones should have familiarized himself with his own.
This is priceless. Infowars TOS: “If you violate these rules, your posts and/or user name will be deleted. It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted. All civilizations have rules and if you violate them you can expect to be ostracized from the tribe.”
— Liam Hogan (@Limerick1914) August 7, 2018
This is actually and truly what the Infowars terms of service say.
“You will not post anything libelous, defamatory, harmful, threatening, harassing, abusive, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable…
Remember: you are a guest here.”
— Liam Hogan (@Limerick1914) August 7, 2018
Maybe the best thing to happen in this conversation was this MAGA-loving Infowars reporter who doesn’t know how words work.
Dear Libtards who think Facebook is a privately owned business,
There’s a thing called fact-checking.
Facebook is a public business that’s publicly traded.
Using that argument to justify banning Alex Jones doesn’t work pic.twitter.com/6laQBgn0qF
— Millie Weaver (@Millie__Weaver) August 7, 2018
Twitter was quick and brutal in informing her that “private” and “privately owned” are terms used to distinguish private-sector business from government-run businesses. Turns out, Millie, words often have more than one meaning and context matters. In this case, the context is a discussion about First Amendment rights. The point is that Jones is dealing with businesses, not the government. (Not that it would be a free speech violation if the government didn’t want to host Jones’ videos. The First Amendment guarantees freedom from persecution based on speech, not guaranteed access to a platform.)
Millie is getting publicly owned on this thread https://t.co/KHrlD0Nmuu
— Kelly Ellis (@justkelly_ok) August 7, 2018
There are some people, at least, who know that this isn’t a violation of Jones’ First Amendment rights, but who try to play the “slippery slope” game, as in, if a company can ban Alex Jones, then they can ban anyone they don’t agree with and then we all have to live with Facebook Fascism. Ted Cruz recently told reporters in Austin, “As the poem goes, you know, first they came for Alex Jones. That does not end well.”
The problem with Cruz’s idiotic comparison, of course, is that the original anti-Nazism poem by Martin Niemöller warns against systemic, governmental oppression of people like socialists and Jews. Ted Cruz is trying to put the conspiracy theorists in that group, which is just ridiculous. Moreover, again, this is not governmental oppression. Doubly moreover, there is actual governmental oppression happening that doesn’t seem to bother the people being so vocal about Infowars losing its Facebook account. Those people are awfully silent on their government coming for refugee children, legal immigrants, trans people, or any other group facing actual oppression by this administration. Those people, in general, aren’t the ones speaking out against Trump’s persistent attacks on the actual legitimate press.
But Alex Jones supporters don’t actually care about censorship. They care about the perceived censorship of their viewpoints.
If there is a slippery slope of platform censorship, it didn’t start with Infowars. It started with the Moroccan atheists, the trans models, the drag performers, the indigenous women…
— jillian (@jilliancyork) August 7, 2018
(image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
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