North Texas Daily

The censorship of Alex Jones is not an infringement on free speech

The censorship of Alex Jones is not an infringement on free speech

The censorship of Alex Jones is not an infringement on free speech
August 08
21:12 2018

Known primarily for his conservative fringe media site, Infowars — that pushed such conspiracies as “The Sandy Hook Hoax” — Alex Jones has come under fire recently for his repeated policy violations of social platforms. YouTube and Facebook have taken very small steps toward censoring content of his they find to be hate speech.

In response to this, some argue this kind of censorship is too slippery of a slope: today they crack down on hate speech, tomorrow they outlaw certain words. But what this argument fails to recognize is the immense difference in government censorship and private sector censorship.

Freedom of speech refers to the right of the American people to say whatever they want — free from government censorship. Private companies like YouTube reserve the right to censor the content on their own platforms and frankly, suggesting private entities should host any and all content ever created seems like a much more slippery slope than taking a stand against violence-inciting speech.

And Jones’ words have incited violence.

“Pizzagate” was one of the many conspiracies covered heavily by Infowars that resulted in the direct targeting of the entities involved. A gunman entered a busy North Carolina pizza shop brandishing an AR-15 rifle and a revolver with the intent to further “investigate” the conspiracy Jones raved so much about. No one was injured in this specific case, but this country is no stranger to needless murder at the hands of those motivated by misinformation and a gun.

Fake news is a real phenomenon with real consequences. Huge, media-disseminating social platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have a responsibility to their users and should take ownership when the content being shared on their sites has direct and negative outcomes. The onus was on these companies to come forward and squash dangerous, unsubstantiated, fabricated conspiracies being peddled as truth.

What followed instead was a slap on the wrist.

Facebook removed a few of his videos and banned Jones’ personal account for 30 days, meaning other Infowars account administrators can still post on his behalf, and he can still appear in the content. YouTube took down some of Jones’ videos as well as administered a “strike” against him, preventing the account from live streaming for 90 days. If the account receives two more strikes in this time period, YouTube will delete the account.

Twitter made the decision not to curtail Jones’ online presence in any way. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey cited Jones had not violated any of Twitter’s policies and furthermore implied it is up to journalists to “document, validate and refute” false information and allow the public to come to their own conclusions.

Assigning the role of de-escalating the effects and spread of fake news entirely to journalists is irresponsible.

Misinformation is far too rampant and influential to pretend like the online platforms that facilitate it should play no role in its abatement.

The CEO of one of the largest online social platforms has essentially bowed out of taking any responsibility for the content allowed on his site. These flimsy, disappointing punishments should come as a surprise to us but don’t. After all, at the end of the day, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are companies, and companies strive for profits. Setting a precedent and thoroughly banning the conspiracist altogether would discourage the content production of Jones’ supporters and others hoping to ride the fake news comet to fame.

And where would YouTube be without conspiracy theory videos?

Jones’ free speech is not being hindered — these companies are just attempting to remove him from their property. Jones is well within his rights to rant about chemically-altered water allegedly turning frogs gay (yes, he really claims that) to the birds in his own backyard, if he so wishes.

Featured Image: Courtesy Facebook

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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1 Comment

  1. qprules
    qprules August 09, 17:37

    I didn’t know “freedom of speech” was just an American concept! We have people in nations throughout the world both willing and dying for this “freedom.” We have government throughout the world deciding what can and can’t be said. What ever happened to the old ‘stick and stones….but names will never hurt me?” We’ve become a nation of hurt feelings. Don’t like what you’re seeing, hearing change the channel. How about we just ban all political sites, right and left and drink a coke!

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