Some of the largest internet platforms have banned Alex Jones, far-right extremist and founder of InfoWars, for spreading hateful and racist content. On Monday, Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube each issued takedowns ranging from channels to pages to podcasts. Other websites like Stitcher and Pinterest followed with their own bans.
Now, only a few major platforms have remained silent. One is e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which as of today, hosts the InfoWars Life store where Jones peddles a variety of pills, powders, and tinctures to “fight back against disease and outside toxins.”
InfoWars Life is a range of wellness products sold by the InfoWars Store, and is advertised as a cure to some of the alarmist health claims that Jones makes on his show.
Snake-oil supplements like Survival Shield X-2 Nascent Iodine ($29.95) claim to “supercharge cognitive functions” and “stabilize your vitality.” But a 2017 independent test by Labdoor and BuzzFeed, for example, found it contained just regular iodine at 3x the price. The Silver Bullet drops ($19.95), on the other hand—dubbed “survival silver,” and marketed to preppers—are completely unfounded by scientific evidence, and even considered dangerous by the National Institute of Health. There’s also a confusing brain supplement called the Real Red Pill ($54.95), which is a nod to a subculture of “awakened” men whose dogma largely rests upon deeply hating women.
All of these things can currently be purchased on Amazon.
One supplement, Bio-True Selenium, even bears the “Amazon’s Choice” label. (Amazon won’t clarify how products earn this label, reported CNET this year, but did say it’s used to denote “highly rated, well-priced products.”)
We don’t know how much InfoWars Life earns for Jones’s company. But it was speculated by Select All that a “vast majority” of Infowars’ revenue is generated by these supplements, which makes sense, considering how much airtime Jones spends hawking these goods.
Lately, Jones has been urging show listeners to buy InfoWars merchandise from his website. “Money is the jet fuel for the jet bombers I use to drop truth bombs,” he told the New York Times on Saturday, prior to being terminated from platforms like YouTube.
According to the New York Times, Jones said on-air:
“Don’t forget the financial support; that is the strongest thing you can do to make sure that we continue on and are strong in the fight,” he said. Referring listeners to his online store, he said, “Go there today and send them a strong message that you stand for the First Amendment, you stand for us and get air filtration, water filtration, optics, preparedness gear, high quality storable foods, supplements that are so good for you and your family.
“Feed your gladiator,” he concluded.
So it’s becoming harder for platforms that host InfoWars content to distance themselves from Jones’s dangerous ideology. There’s a tacit line between selling InfoWars Life and endorsing his claim that Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims are “crisis actors”—these products are seemingly core to keeping Jones’s business alive, and his business is selling conspiracy theories that hurt people. And perhaps that’s partly why websites like YouTube and Facebook finally chose to ban Jones, though many have argued it took far too long.
Amazon, which has not responded to Motherboard’s request for comment, could claim that banning third-party merchandise would be making a value judgment, and that Infowars Life isn’t violating its code of conduct.
But in July, a report by the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy documented Nazi symbols and racist iconography littered across Amazon. Amazon was heavily criticized for allowing white supremacy, and eventually removed the products, permanently blocking their sellers for promoting hatred, violence, and discrimination, according to the New York Times.
Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison wrote Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to say that he was “disturbed that such a powerful corporation is materially fueling the rise of hate groups in our country.” Ellison also questioned the ethics of Amazon profiting from white supremacist literature being sold on its Kindle e-reader website.
Critics have argued that technology companies shouldn’t decree what is and isn’t hateful. But these companies are nevertheless allowed to set and enforce their own rules. And if Amazon decides that it no longer wants to host part of Jones’s toxic media empire, it’s within in rights to sever those ties.
Still, Amazon may also go the way of Twitter, which seems to be evaluating Jones and Infowars on a piecemeal basis. Twitter has said their accounts will remain active since they’re not “currently violating” policies.