Want the best from VICE News in your inbox? Sign up here.
Despite leaked emails at parent company Facebook revealing an internal debate over whether an Instagram post by Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was anti-Semitic, Instagram told VICE News that his account hadn’t violated its community rules.
The Jones-affiliated Instagram account spurred consternation among Facebook employees just a day after the tech giant announced it would ban white nationalist and white separatist content. The post in question, put up earlier this week, showed six men in suits sitting around a Monopoly board laden with gold bars.
It has since been deleted — but not by Instagram, according to the spokesperson. And as of Thursday afternoon, the image remained on the account’s “Stories” feature.
Followed by about 322,000 users, Jones’ Instagram account has become an increasingly important lifeline for Infowars since Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple began cracking down on pages affiliated with the pro-Trump conspiracy site for hate speech and related violations last year. The platform enables Jones to lead users to Infowars.com, hawk the survivalist nutritional supplements that prop up his operation financially, and broadcast long-form videos through Instagram TV.
@real_alexjones recently posted a video clip that claimed former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed “white genocide.” Another suggested a measles outbreak in New York State started with undocumented immigrants. And a Jones monologue on the account’s “Stories” feature earlier this week implied that investigations into 2016 election interference were financed by Chinese nationals.
The emails obtained by Business Insider on Thursday show Facebook employees discussing whether Jones is a “hate figure” — grounds for being blacklisted — and the PR hit the company might suffer if it didn't take action. The account has also had a few apparent run-ins with moderators after posting videos featuring the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group. Still, the Instagram spokesperson said, the account has yet to pass the threshold for a ban.
“Whether an account is removed or not on Instagram depends on the severity of the violation and a person’s history on Instagram, including previous removals,” the Instagram spokesperson said in a statement to VICE News. “For example, some content is so bad that posting it just once means we would remove the account immediately. In the case of other violations, we may warn someone the first time they break our Community Guidelines. If they continue, we may remove the account altogether.”
Progressive groups including Media Matters for America and Sleeping Giants have ramped up their calls for Jones to be banned from Instagram, particularly after the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting — a frequent subject of Jones conspiracies — died in an apparent suicide on Monday.
Jones, who did not respond to a request for comment, has meanwhile used his still-active Instagram account to portray himself as a victim of a leftist plot.
“You call the image anti-Semitic when it was clearly not,” Jones said on an Instagram video Thursday night, threatening to sue Business Insider. “But even if it was, where’s free speech?”
Cover: In this Sept. 5, 2018, photo conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speaks outside of the Dirksen building of Capitol Hill after listening to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on 'Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms' on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)