; Date: Tue Aug 21 2018
A few days ago Alex Jones was banned from YouTube and some other social media platforms. Clearly Jones is a purveyor of fake news and hate speech, and almost certainly violated the terms of service. In response President Trump has described this as discrimination, asking why the social media networks only ban Conservatives and not Liberals. As President Trump suggests, Censorship is a bad thing, but his repeated attacks on normal highly respected news outlets (CNN, etc) borders on Censorship and is itself a bad thing remniscient of what the Nazi Party did in Germany during its ascendancy to power. In this renewed attack, Trump is repeating an earlier claim that social media networks are "shadow banning" Conservatives (making it harder algorithmically to find them). The whole thing could just be a smoke screen to divert attention from something else Republicans are planning to do, or it could be leading up to outright attacks on the social media networks and an attempt at regulation.
The tweets, from August 18, 2018, are shown immediately above.
On the face of it this doesn't sound unreasonable, yes? If indeed "Social Media" were discriminating against Conservative's then yeah "Social Media" should be called out for it. As said abive, I agree that Censorship is a bad thing. Letting everyone participate on equal footing is a great idea. There are a couple sentences in this I can agree with.
Trump did not explicitly say it, but he is clearly reacting to recent the move to ban Alex Jones.
Alex Jones is a well known pusher of bogus information, hate speech, and more. I've listed some details below to support this claim. He was clearly in violation of terms of service a long time ago. Therefore what happened is these social media networks finally decided to enforce terms of service against a high profile persona.
We should all hope this is not about singling out a specific set of Conservatives, but that these social media networks are doing as they are claiming and enforcing terms of service.
It is important to remember that "Freedom of Speech" is guaranteed in the US Constitution, but does it apply to speech published through a website owned by someone else?
Freedom of Speech meets Terms of Service
All these social networks are owned by corporations. Facebook is owned by Facebook, Twitter owned by Twitter, YouTube owned by Google, etc. In each case there are terms of service you must abide by in order to use the service. Each of the services reserves the right to ban folks or take other actions for violating terms of service.
What if someone performed outright illegal activity on such a service? For example, publishing child pornography? Publishing material like that is clearly illegal, and is something that is not covered by Freedom of Speech. A social media network would be obligated to report this to the police, and to ban the content.
That establishes a principle - there is a basis for social media networks to ban people.
Freedom of the Press is governed by those who own the Press. Activity on a social media network is moderated by the owners of that network. They get to determine what's acceptable or not, and this is described in the terms of service.
Freedom of Speech does not extend to being able to force others to promote what you say. In other words, can a child pornographer force Facebook to allow their illegal content in the name of freedom of speech? Nope. Taking that further, the terms of service establish a boundary on what a given social network allows.
To have freedom of speech one must own the means of publishing what you have to say. That means owning your own newspaper, your own TV station, and so on. The moment you start distributing content through a 3rd party service you're limited by what that 3rd party service will allow.
The Banning of Alex Jones
On August 5, 2018, Alex Jones and InfoWars content was removed from "Apple", Facebook and YouTube. By "Apple" they mean the Podcasts app. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/technology/infowars-alex-jones-apple-facebook-spotify.html
On August 6, Facebook posted Enforcing our Community Standards explaining why they blocked Alex Jones and what they did. The post describes the process followed by Facebook when choosing to delete a page or block an account. See: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/08/enforcing-our-community-standards/
On August 9, Facebook posted a panel discussion about the Line between Hate and Debate. This discussion tried to define what is unacceptable hate speech versus open freedom of speech. See: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/08/the-line-between-hate-and-debate/
On August 9, another Facebook panel discussion was about Where do we draw the line on free expression. See: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/08/hard-questions-free-expression/
I couldn't find official announcements from Apple or Google, but the NY Times article above has statements from both saying the same. In all three cases, Alex Jones was banned for pushing hate speech.
Who is Alex Jones
Alex Jones is a so-called conspiracy theorist with a popular radio program and popular website among certain portions of society. I recall his website,
InfoWars.com, primarily from the period around September 11, 2001.
I haven't paid him too much attention, but did (out of curiousity) buy a couple of his DVD's many years ago. The DVD's were full of outright nonsense, hate speech, casting "conspiracies" where there were none, etc.
It is one thing to legitimately document the truth about things missed by the mainstream media, or to document how the mainstream media is misleading us all. There are plenty of examples where the mainstream media misled us all into certain things. For example the runup to the invasion of Iraq was fueled by fake news published in the NY Times by Judith Miller. It's widely known her reporting during that time frame, and the reporting of others, was fueled by fake information supplied by the Bush Administration in order to justify a war that had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11, 2001.
But I'm way deep on a tangent, and need to get back to the topic.
It's one thing to legitimately and truthfully document such stuff. What Alex Jones does is yet another thing.
According to Wikipedia one ridiculous idea frequently promoted by Alex Jones is "White Genocide". For example when NFL Football players are kneeling during the National Anthem (rather than standing with hand over heart), they're preparing for a White Genocide.
Another utterly ridiculous story is that all these mass shootings are being staged by gun control advocates in order to rationalize the Government taking our guns away from us. As part of this he claims that in every one of these supposedly staged mass shootings -- the dead people, the grieving people, etc, are all "crisis actors" -- that the same people show up at shooting after shooting pretending to be a murdered person, or a distraught relative, etc.
That's his schtick - to say a bunch of false inflammatory things that his audience seems to believe.