What Do People Think About Alex Jones Being Banned?

Right-wing conspiracy nut Alex Jones has recently been banned from Facebooks, Youtube, and other sites for violating their hate speech policies.

According to an article published by PolitiFact:

“What sparked their removal? The idea is similar throughout: Jones violated the social media platforms’ hate speech policies.

“Facebook defines hate speech as “a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation.” Youtube has a similar definition.”

My question is this:

By banning hate speech, have these sites put themselves in jeopardy because they have now set a precedent by which they have made themselves liable for content? Sites hosting public forums typically claim that they are exempt from allegations that they are liable for publishing defamatory content because they are like the telephone company, which merely provides a channel of communication.

But by banning certain content, have the sites banning Jones now undercut that argument?

Comments | 2

  • Tough issue

    “By banning hate speech, have these sites put themselves in jeopardy because they have now set a precedent by which they have made themselves liable for content?”

    Not according to the current laws. Site operators are not held liable for the content added by users of their publishing platform, even if they do some moderation, correcting, editing, etc.

    Sites hosting public forums, like this one, do more than “claim” we’re exempt. It’s the legal basis (CDA230) for the existence of sites like iBrattleboro, Google, and so on. Liability rests with the person making the statement, uploading the video, and so on – not the site. If we were liable for everything y’all say, we’d shut down instantly to protect ourselves. The only way we can provide this service is if everyone is responsible for themselves.

    Site owners are free to create any policy they want, change it, enforce it, ignore it… it’s their site. They can also ban, limit, promote people – these are private properties, not public squares.


    Now, we’re nowhere on the scale or importance of these bigger platforms, and Alex Jones is a bit of a special case. (Still waiting for the day Twitter bans Trump…). Banning him, at least in the short run, has made him stronger. He gets to claim he’s a victim, and he’s able to raise extra money and probably gain a few new supporters. He’s in the news! We’re talking about him, and we haven’t done that in a long time.

    It’s a very tough issue, and no easy answers. The gov’t shut down Backpage, a site for adult services, in an effort to thwart illegal activities. As soon as it shut down, police and investigators lost a valuable resource for monitoring all that activity. It’s still going on, just not at the web page that was easy to track and gather evidence at.

    Hate speech, we’re taught, needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as it is noticed. In that regard, it’s probably good that major sites are limiting Mr. Jones. Nothing prevents him from running his own site, or starting an alternative to Twitter, etc. He’s not banned from the internet – just some popular places that were making promotion of his content more easy.

    (If I were a Jones follower, I’d be thrilled to be away from the big data gathering and selling services. Everything they formerly posted to social media was scooped up by the spy agencies! Now they are more free and less tracked. I’d delete my accounts in solidarity with Mr. Jones, and move to his web site instead. I’d also be mad at the system, and this would further confirm the world was out to get us. To Jones, this must be like a gift from above.)

    But, to the questions above, the law clearly allows for moderation, and liability is still ultimately with the person creating the content, not the platform.

  • Banning Right Wing Conspiracy Nuts

    I agree with Chris on the issue of liability for owners of web sites allowing public comment. My greater interest in this is whether banning someone like Alex Jones will eliminate any of the issues associated with him — interest in conspiracy theories, opinions defined as hate speech, or unpopular opinions in general. I would say that if there was no Alex Jones, people inclined to read/listen to him would just find a new mouthpiece. These opinions exist independent of the figurehead. (There were plenty of right wingers prior to Rush Limbaugh, but we were more aware of them once there was a guy expressing those opinions on whom we could focus our ire.)

    Another thing — and here’s where I may get in trouble myself for my speech! I believe the right is more militant and angry because of attempts to discredit and ban them. The outlet of speech (think ‘rant’) might have kept that impulse in check. But when folks on the left say “you’re bad and shouldn’t be allowed to speak,” that creates anger and resentment, not to mention fuel for their fire. I’d rather have words than sticks and stones (car attacks and gunfire), even if it means a few “nutjobs” get to have their say.

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