Alex Jones, founder of the conspiracy-peddling website Infowars, was kicked off of YouTube today. The Alex Jones Channel, which had 2.4 million subscribers, “has been terminated for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
A spokesperson for YouTube told Motherboard in a statement:
All users agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines when they sign up to use YouTube. 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.
But YouTube was the final major platform to ban Jones within the past 24 hours. Apple, Spotify, and Facebook each unpublished various pages related to Jones and Infowars. Apple was the first, removing podcasts from its Podcasts app and the iTunes store for “hate speech.” Spotify similarly removed one of his podcasts for hate content. And Facebook deleted four pages—Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page—for “repeated violations of community standards.”
YouTube told The Guardian that Jones’s account was terminated over “repeatedly appearing in videos despite being subject to a 90 day ban from the website.”
In banning Jones, these companies have signaled a big change in how they moderate dangerous, hateful content. YouTube has a “three strikes” policy, resulting in a warning, suspension, and eventually termination. Motherboard also learned from leaked documents that, at one point, Facebook permitted “five strikes” within 90 days before terminating a page.
Last month, YouTube removed four Infowars videos for violating its “graphic content” policy, and suspended him from live-streaming for 90 days. The deleted videos targeted Muslims and other marginalized groups. This counted as one strike. A second strike, according to CNN, would prevent him from uploading new content for two weeks.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki defended the strike policy in February, saying that rules should be enforced consistently.
So it’s notable that Apple’s disciplinary action triggered other platforms to do the same. And begs the questions: Why and why now?
Many have pointed out that YouTube, Facebook, and others have been largely tolerant of Jones, citing immovable moderation policies as the reason for leaving his channels be. Even after Jones labeled the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a “hoax,” and endangered the families of shooting victims by calling their children “crisis actors.” It’s possible but extremely unlikely that YouTube, for example, learned of new behavior that would warrant Jones’ termination, and suggests its rules were arbitrarily enforced to avoid punishing high-profile users like Infowars.
Over on Facebook, Jones will be able to appeal the removal of his pages. If not, they will be permanently deleted. It's not clear whether YouTube will allow him to do the same.