Alex Jones, the red-faced foghorn host of conspiracy peddlers InfoWars, saw his podcasts removed from iTunes on Monday after Apple decided they infringed on their terms of service. The content of his transmissions amounted to "hate speech", Apple said, and was violating guidelines that were designed to protect other users.
In the hours that followed, Spotify, Facebook and, perhaps most importantly, YouTube – where his InfoWars brand had 2.4 million followers – all deleted Jones's content on similar grounds (in July, YouTube deleted four InfoWars videos; one criticised Muslim immigration in Europe, while another denounced a transgender cartoon).
InfoWars is infamous for spreading both outright conspiracy theories and more general lies about current events, as well as for its support of US President Donald Trump. To many, its removal from the four Big Tech firms' platforms is a good thing. For Jones, understandably, it is not ideal; following the news, the Texan took to Periscope, where he live-streamed to around 3,000 people, saying things like, "Fuck you, Zuckerberg!" and, "The Chicoms [communist Chinese] want us off the air!"
But what do the British people make of all this? I took to the streets to find out.
Alex, 24; Jack, 23; Vinnie, 23
VICE: So, who is Alex Jones, and why has he been banned from the big social media sites?
Alex: Alex Jones, the conspiracy theory guy? I mean, I dunno why he's been banned. I assume for something mildly racist or inappropriate.
Jack: Alex Jones is that, like, Labour journalist, right?
That's Owen Jones
Vinnie: See, the name rings a massive bell for me. I initially thought "author". Has he published books?
He is an author of sorts.
Alex: He's very shouty, isn't he? The only reason I know that is because I walked past a friend's laptop at work today and it was on top of his newsfeed, [with Jones] looking all red and flustered
Why do you reckon they've only just decided to ban him now?
Alex: Well, I should really know that, considering what I work in – I work a bit in social media. Wasn't he something to do with the Scientology thing that Louis Theroux did?
Vinnie: Lil Theroux? Is he a rapper or something?
Who is Alex Jones and why has his content been banned by major tech firms?
Shakil: I'd probably say because of his derogatory statements, hate speech, things like that. I've seen his content before – I know he's pretty infamous on the wrong sides of the internet. He gets mentioned quite a bit on certain sites and things like that.
Why do you think Apple, Spotify, Facebook and YouTube have only just acted now?
I'd say it's probably because someone spoke out, or someone in the upper management, eventually, for some reason, decided to do what's right.
Do you think they all copied each other?
I'd say it's mostly because companies don't really care. Unless one company does one thing first, no one will do it. Either management does something or there's public pressure from celebrities or the public in general. Otherwise, nothing gets done.
Alex Jones. Who is he?
Jess: I'm thinking of Alex Jones the female presenter? The Welsh one. She looks like Christine Lampard but she's not Christine Lampard. She does The One Show, I think.
Different Alex Jones – the red-faced conspiracy theorist, formerly of YouTube fame.
Oh, I remember now! He's a cunt. I saw him in an article and he was next to a picture of Katie Hopkins, and that's when I knew I didn't like him.
Correct answer. Are there any other figures on social media who you think should be banned?
Piers Morgan. He's a terrible human being. He just shouts at people rather than asking questions and having a debate. I remember that interview when he kept shouting at that girl, calling her an Obama supporter, and then she was like, "Well I'm a communist, so you're an idiot."
Who's your favourite online personality?
I think I like Owen Jones at the moment. He's probably doing the best online stuff, if we're talking about political people.
Tell me – who is Alex Jones and why has he been banned from Facebook, Apple, Spotify and now YouTube?
Maxwell: He's a presenter of InfoWars and he's a very controversial figure. I don't know why he's been banned; maybe he was saying something bad about Trump or something?
I think he's fond of Donald.
Oh, OK, well he's been saying something controversial and he's been banned, I guess.
Now he's gone, who do you think will replace him?
Maybe Ben Shapiro or something? I haven't really watched much of that stuff – I'm aware of it mainly from meme stuff.
Are there other people out there who you think should be banned?
If you're talking about YouTube, that place really is... I mean, there's a lot. Have you heard of Ricegum? He's similar to "The Pauls" – Logan and Jake – that kind of vein of YouTube. He's just like, "Hey guys, look how much money I have." He's just a wanker. If you haven't seen him, he is the worst person on YouTube.
Worse than PewDiePie?
I think so. They have a very young target audience and they're very manipulative, and it's all about making money and showing off to other people, and if you don't show off it's like they don't care. It's all about "buy my merch".