The hits keep coming for Austinite Alex Jones.
The embattled radio host who runs the Infowars website — currently being sued for claiming the Sandy Hook school shooting never happened — has seen his video and audio clips disappear from Facebook, YouTube and a number of other sites in recent days.
While Jones’ critics are cheering the news, some social media and free speech experts said the moves could set a dangerous precedent.
Jones has amassed a large following while promulgating conspiracy theories that claim terror attacks such as 9/11 were actually carried out by the government. Among his claims is that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead, was a hoax.
Reached by the American-Statesman on Monday, Jones said he was late for an appointment and said, “Make up whatever you want” before ending the call.
A post on the Infowars site said, in part: “The war on your mind is in full swing as globalists remove outlets of liberty and truth, starting with the tip of the spear: Alex Jones.”
On YouTube, Jones’ personal channel and the Infowars channel had been removed Monday. Jones had been warned that he had two strikes for posting content that failed to meet the streaming video site’s standards.
“When users violate these policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts,” YouTube told the Statesman in a statement.
Also Monday, Facebook said it had “unpublished” four pages linked to Jones. This comes after the site had previously suspended Jones for 30 days and yanked several videos posted on those pages.
“Since then, more content from the same pages has been reported to us — upon review, we have taken it down 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,” Facebook said in a statement.
Facebook’s statement indicated the pages had accumulated too many strikes but wouldn’t say how many strikes it takes to prompt the type of action taken against Jones and Infowars.
Apple removed all episodes of “The Alex Jones Show” Sunday, along with four podcasts with ties to Infowars, and Spotify, which caught flak after adding Jones to its offerings recently, has reversed course.
“We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” Spotify said in a statement provided to the Statesman. “Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, ‘The Alex Jones Show’ has lost access to the Spotify platform.”
Jones says his shows, which are broadcast on radio and online platforms, reach at least 70 million people a week. It’s unclear how the latest bans have affected his reach.
As of Monday evening, Jones and Infowars were still active on Twitter. A number of tweets sent from the @infowars account referenced the bans, including one that claimed Jones and Infowars were being “purged from social media in (a) coordinated attack.”
While he fights to keep his voice heard, Jones is also doing battle in court. His attorney was in court in Austin this month trying to get a million-dollar defamation suit, brought by parents of children killed at Sandy Hook, dismissed. A ruling has yet to be made by District Judge Scott Jenkins.
“Maybe it’s fringe speech; maybe it’s dangerous speech,” Jones’ attorney Mark Enoch said during the hearing. “That is not defamation. That’s rhetorical hyperbole at its core.”
While many criticize Jones’ speech as reprehensible, Ben Bentzin, a marketing lecturer at the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, said Monday that the moves by Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify “set a new – and possibly dangerous – precedent.”
“Obviously, denying Sandy Hook was awful,” said Bentzin, whose areas of expertise include social media. “The response to such outrageous speech should be for us to say how outrageous it is.”
Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify are within their rights to ban Jones because they are private entities, Bentzin said. Just because they have those protections, though, doesn’t mean they should take actions like the ones taken Sunday and Monday, he said.
“Those who prefer not to be exposed to hate speech they don’t like will be emboldened by this,” Bentzin said. “Where does it end? Who becomes the decider? It puts these private companies in a very difficult situation.”