Some of the nation’s largest technology and social media companies have tried to stop Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories. But in a digital world, their attempts seem to have barely slowed him down.
After YouTube, Facebook and others this week removed content by Jones and his website, the InfoWars leader, talk show host and Austin resident fired back, accusing the companies of censorship and urging his audience to fight back against what he called an “unprecedented attack.”
Meanwhile, Jones’ website and other online platforms have remained popular destinations.
InfoWars continues to see more than 1 million page visits per day and has trended upward this month, according to Amazon’s Alexa website traffic report, which also said InfoWars averages more than 25 million page views per month.
Consumers still can access InfoWars through the same tech companies that just banned it. Google still offers the Infowars app for Android users, and Apple customers can download it through the App Store.
As of Friday, the show’s phone app remained near the top of the charts in both the Apple App and Google Play stores. Infowars Official, an app that lets viewers stream Jones’ shows and read news of the day, was ranked fourth among trending apps in the Google Play store Friday. In the news category on Apple’s App Store, Infowars earned the fourth slot under the top free apps, behind Twitter and News Break, a local and breaking news service, revealing a sudden boost of user downloads.
Apple told The Washington Post in a written statement: “We put great effort into curating the App Store to provide the very best experience for everyone. We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all.”
On Twitter, where Jones hasn’t been banned, his follower count has reached almost 900,000.
“Alex Jones has been doing this for a long time,” said Adam Curry, a former host on MTV and longtime podcast personality in Austin. “When he started off, there was no YouTube, etc. We have the belief that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are the internet, but it’s not. You can’t stop people from posting, and he has a very loyal following.”
Jones has previously said his platforms reach 70 million people per week.
In a way, Curry said, Jones’ banishment from major websites has helped the host, giving him ammunition to rile up his followers and further promote his initiatives.
For years, Jones has peddled conspiracy theories through his platforms. He has claimed, for example, that the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax. Some of the parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook have filed a defamation lawsuit against the host. Jones’ attorney was in court in Austin this month seeking to have that and another, separate defamation suit dismissed. A ruling has yet to be made.
After multiple complaints against Jones, some major tech and social media companies decided to take action.
On Monday, Facebook unpublished four pages — the Alex Jones Channel page, the Alex Jones page, the InfoWars Page and the InfoWars Nightly News Page.
YouTube, Apple and Spotify also have removed multiple InfoWars videos and podcasts.
The companies cited hate speech as the cause, including pages with content that glorified violence and used dehumanizing language toward Muslims.
True to character, however, Jones has fought back.
His website has been promoting an “unprecedented attack” on Jones and displayed photos of the host with tape around his mouth. On Twitter, he has accused YouTube, Apple and others of censorship, and those posts have amassed hundreds of retweets from his followers.
Jones did not return a call from the American-Statesman seeking comment.
Ben Bentzin, a marketing lecturer at the University of Texas, said the removal of Jones’ content highlights the problem social media sites have created for themselves by monitoring certain speech and not others.
“There’s not a firm, bright line between categories of speech which some people will find offensive and others will find acceptable,” Bentzin said. “The antidote to bad speech should start with speech to point out how awful it is.”
Curry, the podcast host, said the best move might have been to do nothing, as Twitter has done.
“It’s a desperate move to not have political talk on these platforms,” Curry said. “And in a way, it’s already backfiring. It’s already hurting them.”