Was the banning of Infowars on most social media justified?


#1

Corey DeVos and I have been discussing this issue on Facebook.

I will show you what has been said so far.

I asked facetiously in response to a post from Corey about this new forum:

Will you be issuing a statement about Alex Jones?

Corey said:

I am still shaping my own thoughts around the Alex Jones issue, but my sense right now is that the decision to ban him from these platforms is in no way a “free speech” issue as many are making it out to be. The fact of the matter is, he wasn’t banned without cause, he was banned for repeatedly violating terms and conditions after being warned several times. I would also ban Alex Jones from the Integral Life community as well, particularly if he explicitly violated our own terms and conditions.

Folks like Alex Jones have a right to free speech, but he does not have a right to use these various platforms to amplify that speech. He can still make videos and publish them on his site, he just can’t use a third party platform like YouTube to publicize them. He can still offer his podcast, he just can’t expect iTunes to deliver new listeners to him.

A lot of people are feeling a bit trigger happy right now, and want to see this as an example of the left’s assault on freedom of speech, but I really do not think that is the case. Speech is free, but megaphones are not.

My own .02 pesos :grinning:

I responded by saying:

:grinning: I would agree with you if you banned him from Integral Life, Corey. I would support you 100%.

With regard to the free speech issue, it is not so much about Alex to me, though his case is worth looking into carefully to see whether his rights have been infringed upon and whether they are maintaining double standards, but whether this is one more episode in a campaign to ban their political opponents.

I’m pretty sure we can find repeat violators of their terms and conditions on the Left who aren’t being banned or even questioned on the issue, so this is what troubles me.

They are already demonetizing their political opponents (e.g., Dave Rubin), so I see this as a part of a larger trend of two terms of conditions: one for the Left and one for the Right.

As far as I can see, it is more about politics than protecting people’s feelings – if it were about protecting people’s feelings we would see bannings of Leftists as well.

Corey said:

David Marshall I absolutely agree that these standards need to be applied universally. I’d love to hear about any equivalent offenders among the left who have received leniency around similar hate speech warnings (though I am not sure Alex Jones really has an analogue anywhere on the left). The issue, of course, is that “hate speech” as legally defined is typically something you see more of from the right than from the left, and when these accounts are rightfully banned it might leave an uninformed observer with the impression that this must be evidence of partisanship. But if anyone on the left was using these platforms to spread hate speech or threaten violence, then I absolutely would want them banned after receiving a warning.

The larger point, I think, is that these platforms have been largely abused by extremists over the last few years, which in turn has swung the Overton window to a dangerous degree, even smashing it altogether, and I am happy to see some rudimentary immune system starting to come online.

I personally don’t think it’s about either politics or feelings, I think it’s about behavior that violates terms and conditions — and ultimately about the corporation’s bottom line, since it’s hard to sell ad space for hate speech. Especially since Jones was given several warnings from each of these platforms, with multiple opportunities to change his behavior, but instead he doubled down and now wants his followers to believe he’s been victimized by the derp state.

“I would agree with you if you banned him from Integral Life, Corey. I would support you 100%.”

Thank you for your support here! My question is, what happens if all of our wildest dreams came true, and Integral Life suddenly blew up to the size and influence of a company like Google? Do our own terms and conditions need to change as we scale? Is it okay for more niche communities like us to enforce these sorts of conditions, but not for larger platforms?

Put differently, should a community’s terms and conditions reflect the center of gravity of that community, or does a community’s TAC help define the center of gravity of that community? It’s interesting comparing IL to FB – one is all depth and very little span, and the other is all span with very little depth.

Tangent: one of the things that has truly driven me crazy lately is the hypocrisy among the anti-net neutrality folks on the right who are calling Jones’ suspension a blatant attack on free speech, but want to allow ISPs an even stronger and more sinister mechanism to silence speech. Apple cannot kill Alex Jones’ RSS feed, even if they refuse to serve it within their own platform. But without net neutrality protections, Comcast could kill his feed completely, or else make it completely unavailable to their customers.

But even here it is a good idea to keep ourselves from becoming too polarized, because I fully support an ISP’s right to refuse server space to a site like Stormfront.

In response to his query about “equivalent offenders among the left who have received leniency around similar hate speech warnings,” I showed him the Twitter account of Louis Farrakhan, who also has an account on Facebook and YouTube:

https://twitter.com/LouisFarrakhan?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author

That is pretty much where the conversation stands now. I have more to say, but this post is probably long enough as it is, so I will bring it to a close.


#2

I’m totally down with major media platforms banning Alex Jones. We’re talking about someone who has literally incited people to stalk the parents of murdered children, among many other crimes against humanity. He’s also arguably a stochastic terrorist.

As Corey points out, he is totally free to spew his hateful, toxic rhetoric elsewhere on the Internet. That doesn’t mean Apple or Google have to host him.


#3

Hi, Arthur.

I agree about Jones – his speech is toxic, hateful, and nonsensical as you say.

As I said in another forum recently, no rational, worldcentric person is going to miss him or other bigoted propagandists from the Right.

The issue is that (1) these platforms are monopolies or oligopolies; (2) they are already demonetizing legitimate voices who are critical of the radical Left like Dave Rubin, not just going after wing-nuts like Jones; and (3) Leftist bigots and propagandists are allowed to remain.

So why is someone like Farrakhan, who is continually anti-Semitic and has been for decades and who has also explicitly encouraged racial violence, allowed to remain?

Earlier in the day that Micah Johnson killed 5 police officers in Dallas, Farrakhan tweeted a video in which he said:

"When you are willing and not afraid anymore to pay the price for freedom — don’t let this white man tell you that violence is wrong. Every damn thing that he got, he got it by being violent — killing people, raping and robbing and murdering. He’s doing it as we speak, and then he has the nerve to come and tell us that violence and hatred won’t get it. Don’t buy that!”

And we know Johnson had “liked” Farrakhan’s Facebook page, so it’s reasonable to think Johnson might have seen this and that it could have inspired him to go on that killing spree.

Farrakhan continually makes anti-Semitic comments in videos that are posted on YouTube. Someone put one of them to music:

Why don’t people complain about that? Would you like to see him banned from these platforms as well?

There has been growing anti-Semitism on the Left these days, but the Left is not only silent about it by and large, they are allying themselves with the anti-Semites.

So the main issue for me is not Jones – no one will miss him – it is just about applying the same standards to both sides in the spirit of liberal democracy and equal respect for all groups.


#4

It also appears that it was pressure from Democrats that got Jones banned.

As of July 12, Facebook’s official policy on Infowars was to leave them alone.

CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted on July 11 that he had “asked them why InfoWars is still allowed on the platform” and that he “didn’t get a good answer.”

Facebook tweeted back on July 12 that they “see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news. We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.”

However, on July 17 Democrats grilled social media companies, including Facebook, about Infowars in a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

For example, Rep. Ted Deutch said after mentioning an Infowars video about the Parkland shooting:

“How many strikes does a conspiracy theorist who attacks grieving parents and student survivors of mass shootings get?”

Facebook representative Monika Bickert responded that while some of Infowars articles had been taken down they hadn’t seen enough to justify taking down the entire account.

Rep. Jamie Raskin then accused Facebook of taking “positions in the interest of the right-wing politics” and threatened to “have to look at what’s happening there, because then at that point there’s not viewpoint neutrality.”

Rep. David Cicilline said that Facebook had “bent over backwards to placate and mollify conservatives based on fiction."

It appears to have been a part of a larger social media campaign by Democrats in the run up to the midterm elections.

This was reported in the Washington Post just today.

They have hired 43 “battle station organizers.” They have been recruiting “social media activists” to canvas online and start potentially viral posts. They have been alerting social media companies of suspected Right-wing or Russian bots.

That’s all okay, but it looks like they have also applied political pressure – including a threat – to ban at least one account on the Right while ignoring similar offenders on the Left.

This is like McCarthyism.


#5

I agree with you that someone on the left who is engaging in stochastic terrorism or otherwise sufficiently toxic or dangerous rhetoric (e.g. on the level of Alex Jones or the current occupant of the oval office) should be banned from social media. Based on what you are conveying about Farrakhan, it sounds like he would be a good candidate for banning.

I do not share your perception that the left is currently equally or more problematic than the right in these terms. How it looks to me is there is a radical fringe on the left that is problematic, and a much larger contingent on the right is problematic in this way; arguably almost the entire right, considering what 45 is putting out and what essentially the entire Republican party is enabling. (I’m not interested in arguing this point further; if it looks to you like the left is currently more problematic, okie-dokie :slight_smile:).


#6

Glad we’re in general agreement about that, Arthur. You were an awesome moderator yourself. Facebook should hire you as chief moderator!

With regard to who is the bigger problem, I will just say that I think the radical Left is because they control the education system.

As Alan Dershowitz argues in this video, “They are our future.” That is, the students are our future, and I believe that the radicals on the Right and Trump’s victory are a product of radicalization on the Left as much as anything else.

So the best way to prevent another Trump is to do something about the radical Left in my view.

One of the best ways to diminish bigotry on the Right is to diminish bigotry on the Left – I believe they are interconnected and that one begets the other.


#7

Looking at this using quadrants helps here. You are identifying issues in the lower and upper left but we continue to try and solve this without evolving the lower right. What’s the system of communication? We continue to try and debate issues and come up with the “right answer”. The beauty of green is it tells us there is no right answer. We can get stuck here and just spin into oblivion, slip back or we can evolve. I love the google design think process. They use this for product design, but design think may be the next step in evolved communication. What green tells us is there is no “magic bullet” way of being. Our world is being design by us everyday. That’s it. There is no magical God dictating the show and capitalism left to it’s own devices is ugly. Ban, don’t ban, left, right…looking at design process, the real question is what’s the program? What do you want to create? Show me your schematic so I can offer a critique to see if your plans are effectively and beautifully solving the program. Start to develop it. What’s the plans for implementation?

This is a new grass roots movement. This is popping up everywhere around me…it’s exciting. I wonder about how to create design think platforms. This platform is still more debate oriented. We need to evolve the lower right…


#8

I think that the banning of Infowars was another watershed moment in the sanitization and policing of the mainstream internet.

This has similarly happened in the past to people such as Milo Yianopolis and Sargon of Akkad who moved to different less popular platforms. Platforms which increased in popularity due to them moving, as has happened to Infowars.

I assume and predict that groups of like minded people isolating themselves to semi-private internet networks will increase polarization and amplify the echo chamber effect of their rhetoric. This is doubly true for mainstream internet.

The way Infowars was targeted by political entities who applied pressure to have a voice removed/silenced creates a path for them to do so again in the future. Each time, in theory, needing to apply less pressure and give perhaps less cause for their demand someone be silenced.

I don’t like infowars and think Alex Jones should be held accountable for what he says, not where he says it. Forcing him, others like him, and their fans to new platforms sows the seeds of something we will see rise up later.

While banning him was justified it was a shortsighted decision to do so.


#9

Unless I’ve missed someone I haven’t heard anybody who is a genuine fan of Alex. Personally, I find him to be hilarious often with balls of steel, he has an incredible memory, who sometimes loses his rag and is a certain catharsis of rage so lacking in the world. Alot of his rants are just that, rants, comical, letting off steam, and catharsis for his own frustration. Not to everybody’s tastes but Alex Jones is not that niche, he has a significant following and influential guests. He got quite a few mentions during the last presidential campaign if anyone remembr sprecisely because he’s influential.

It’s hard to ignore when he talks about demons and such, but having watched him it seems to me that his own view is almost Jungian, he’s talking in human archetypes and energy, and when he’s not, he’s usually referring to someone else’s view in reference to satanic worship that goes on in some elite circles. Personally I think the latter is overstated by him and more inconsequential, although there are proven areas it’s been known to happen. The more important take home is the danger of psychopaths and such in great position of powers seem more an apt area of concern, I’ve always suspected if there are satanic rituals going on they are more about power and sex addiction than any genuine belief these people may have.

I’ve also heard the term conspiracy theorist thrown around disparagingly in the integral world at times as though there is not major corruption or real evil done by elites at times. It occurs to me that Alex Jones may well have made some huge mistakes in the past, but I know of very few resources in the world that actually tackle the subject matter that he does. Very serious issues - sex trafficking, various suspect evidence around the Clintons, questioning the official story of 9/11, deaths that seem suspiciously political, possibly funding of domestic terrorism by George Soros etc. etc. Half the criticism I hear in the mainstream media seem to almost lie about what he said or make a grotesque character of something that was nuanced.

The Sandy Hook case is a good example, from what I understand Alex’s take is that he doesn’t buy the official story of what happened. Someone can prove me wrong, it’s rather hard to find now given he’s been wiped from youtube and it’s clear that youtube’s search engine favours mainstream media now. If some of his fans have hounded the grieving parents then he clearly should be more careful in his words but as with many public voices with a large following they cannot be held responsible for the actions of some unhinged fans that they have. And sometimes tough subject matter that is a taboo to talk about calls for having some balls and taking a strong stand. It is the same with 9/11. I always switch it on it’s head with regards to the conspiracy theories, I ask if people believe in the official story which has a hundred holes in it rather than supporting any half baked explanation.

As somebody else said prior. These companies have a monopoly on the most important platforms we have voice to communicate. The fact they unilaterally chose to deplatform Alex on the same day is very strange and I don’t buy that it was for community standards when all of these companies have atrocious records with things that are vastly more offensive than Alex is. And If you compare some of the harfmul rhetoric coming out of the legacy mainstream media’s - the denigration of Trump supporters, constantly defaming any alternative thinker as ‘alt-right’, New York Time’s recent employee of Sarah Jeong who gets such a public platform to spout brazen hatred against white people etc etc on the list goes. By comparison some of the stuff Alex Jone’s has said frankly is rather mild, coupled with the fact he is not as powerful as these well established news outlets.


#10

Wikileaks has reported that Senator Mark Warner of Virginia circulated a white paper that threatened social-media companies with new regulations one week before Infowars was banned.

So together with the House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 17 this suggests that Democrats may have been responsible.

That would be fine, as Infowars is hurtful nonsense – if they were even-handed about it and kept even standards on all sides of the political spectrum, which they aren’t.


#11

I am a “glass is half full” kind of guy, so I will continue to see this as an important first step toward marginalizing extremism and closing some of the primary onranps leading to radicalization. And I agree 100% that it needs to be evenly applied across the political spectrum. But any way I cut it, I can only see the Alex Jones deplatforming as a healthy (and overdue) collective immune response.

And yeah, ban Farrakhan too if he’s violated the same terms and conditions. Though I’m not sure how much real influence that guy actually still has among the mainstream left.


#12

I almost entirely disagree with you Corey but I like it :). Considering my own bias.

In a weird way I actually wonder if it will create more competition to these big monpoloes. Apparently Alex has had the Streisand effect with a sudden increasedrush of subscribers. I’m wondering what kind of rules you think it’s actually ok to ban someone? Personally I’ve found ‘hate’ speech to be one of the most erroneous terms I’ve heard of. Hate is a useful emotion at times, especially around taboo subjects people are too scared to talk about, atrocious injustice, murders, abuse etc. For good rules would basically be what we already have legally but with addition to someone making a genuine incitement to violence or other crime. The classic free speech issue.


#13

I don’t think Farrakhan has any influence over the mainstream Left. He just has influence over radicals, but that can be dangerous. He’s just the most dramatic example I’m aware of, but there are others.

I don’t have too much of a problem with banning Jones if it stops with people like him, but one caveat there is that several studies suggest that isolation can increase extremism for both individuals and groups, so putting these people out of our sight is not necessarily the answer.

Studies have shown, for example, that if you put a group of ideologues together for a weekend retreat or whatnot they are likely to come back more radicalized.

If they are out in the open, people will criticize them and perhaps moderate their views, but on their own there will be no moderate voices.

Similarly, studies have also shown that extirpating moderates from groups leads to radicalization, as now they are missing moderate information and perspectives, leading to a “crippled epistemology.”

Also, if people are banned and certain kinds of speech not allowed, we might not know who the “haters” are until they do something drastically wrong. I have wondered whether this has been a factor in some of the school shooters.

Often people act like banning or excommunicating the “bad actor” is the righteous thing to do – and sometimes it is – but sometimes it looks like passing off our problems to someone else or brushing it under the rug.

The real question I have with banning Jones is whether it will stop with wing-nuts like him.

The same movement fired or managed out Larry Summers, James Damore, Bret Weinstein, and several others – what reason is there to believe that they will now become tolerant and allow classically liberal and conservative voices?

They have already demonetized several classical liberals and conservatives on YouTube, so they are trying to suppress such voices.


#14

“Where would I find enough leather
To cover the entire surface of the earth?
But with leather soles beneath my feet,
It’s as if the whole world has been covered.”

― Śāntideva

Maybe part of the solution is for our culture to evolve its approach to how it values and vets information. When do we expect people with half baked ideas to stop posting to social media? Unless they are organizing violence, perhaps we should just think of it as part of the fun of everyone having access to the “press”. That being said, of course private companies can set their own rules.


#15

I finally found my path in life. socio. - Bart simpson


#16

On a related topic, Alex Jones’s website seems to have been hacked and is not serving his content.

I know that most of us disapprove of his ideas, but what should we think about vigilantes denying free expression on the internet?


#17

Great question! I doubt we could settle on any single answer since there are so many different ways to slice it, further complexified by so many possible contexts.

My gut reaction is no, I generally do not support vigilante justice. Usually. Except sometimes, maybe. Because Batman. And because Kohlberg.

A couple questions come to mind:

  • To what extent are these vigilantes themselves an expression of our evolutionary intelligence, a natural immune response to a spreading infection in the noosphere? This question may have no bearing at all upon whether these kinds of actions are “right” or “wrong”.

  • In our most optimistic visions of the future, will history look fondly upon these sorts of vigilante acts of resistance?

  • Saying something like “2+2=5” is obviously within the confines of protected speech. But what are the free speech remedies when a dangerous and increasing plurality of people begin to actually believe that, if they have two apples, and someone gives them two more apples, they should now have five apples? (Then someone else tells them to blame an immigrant, a libtard, or the Deep State when they only count four…)

  • Does the “free expression” of Alex Jones in any way advocate “the use of force”, “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action”, and “likely to incite or produce such action”? These are the terms set forth by the Supreme Court in 1969 around unprotected speech (which, interestingly resulted in the reversal of a previous conviction of the KKK, as it was determined that their rally did not in fact incite an imminent intent to do violence. And yes, I am getting all this off a wikipedia page right now.)

As for the last question, my sense is that Alex Jones entire career is balanced on this line, and while he usually stays on the side of protected speech and plausible deniability, he has stepped past that line on more than one occasion, and certainly seems to contribute to the sort of frenzied atmosphere that has often become a hotbed of far-right extremism and terrorism.

Ultimately I think we are facing some very new problems around free speech in the age of the internet, and are struggling to apply legal precedence to new challenges and new life conditions. Not to mention the fact that we often confuse the “spirit” of free speech with the actual legal definitions.

All that said, it’s one thing for a privately owned platform to kick him off and take away his free megaphone, but something totally different to go after his own website. That is a matter for either the courts if there is a case to be made, or his ISP if he violates their terms and conditions.

So no, I don’t condone vigilantes hacking Alex Jones’ website. But I’m still allowed to chuckle when they do. :laughing:


#18

It turns out that, just a couple hours before I wrote the above, Alex Jones was suspended from Twitter for one week for inciting violence, which again, falls outside the bounds of “free speech”.

BTW, apparently Alex Jones’ own website has the following rules, which I found kind of funny.


#19

I appreciate that tone can be lost onilne so just prefacing this is not a fiery challenge but I think there is nuance about this issue than Alex being a raving hate monger. Just curious because I see a hell of alot of accusations thrown at Alex that have turned out to be wrong so I’m wondering if you or anyone else has some specific things he’s said or done with notable sources given how much he gets taken out of context that would qualify as hate speech.

In that line I do not trust buzzfeed to call a kettle black these days unless it’s good for them as clickbait. I’ve actually tried to find this apparently offensive tweet with this video. I’m highly suspicious that there is very little context given by various so called notable news sources, the guardian, bbc, CNN, reuters, the list goes on. Some out of context quote about battle rifles from listening to Alex alot sounds more like colourful language than something literal, a call to literal arms has to be quite specific and really doesn’t sound more more than the typical NRA rhetoric. Maybe that’s enough to get you banned these days I don’t know but the mainstream media all seem to be parrots of one another.

I love this ridiculous quote from the Guardian one of the main papers in the UK:

“The New York Times reports that Jones tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against media and others.”

I mean stellar journalism there, I bet NYT had to put a month’s research in to find that out and not at all just based on what was already in public information or received in a 5 minute phone call so I have no idea why NYT is being referenced. NYT itself probably falling on Buzzfeed’s ‘journalism’ too.


#20

I’ve always thought the term “free speech” is a misnomer, because speech always costs one something, perhaps as little as a minute expenditure of energy, perhaps as much as death.

We’re always looking at these issues from the outside, trying to be objective, sort out the legal definitions, allowances, forbiddances; all of which is necessary, of course. But the problem is really one of interiors, too many people not considering the consequences of their speech, too many people pushing the envelope, too many people indulging in their “rights” and “freedoms,” all of which is burning the house down, from both its right and left sides.

So this is where I sort of become a Republican, and want people held responsible for the uglier and irresponsible sides of their inner make-up, and since there’s no way we can slit an Alex Jones or a Farrakhan open and adjust a few knobs, turn the dial on a few buttons, then there has to be consequences in the exterior world for their actions that result from their failure to further grow up. Granted, such consequences may have no effect on making these people individually more tolerant or reasonable, but it is a cubic centimeter of chance for them to “see the light” and change their ways, and whether they do or not, it also subtly and not-so-subtly messages the culture-at-large that “free speech” indeed is not necessarily free; one can pay a high price.

I found the Seth Rogan movie “The Interview” an interesting case around freedom of expression. Why would anyone intentionally provoke an immature and dangerously erratic leader of another country? For what reason? (besides money, fame, status…of course, and oh yes, “individual artistic expression.”) That so many people came out in his defense, from Hollywood to Obama, was even more curious in that every single one spoke to the right to free speech with nary a word about responsibility. In all the vast media coverage, I heard only a single commentator speak to the issue of poor judgment on Rogan’s part.

While I understand the need to uphold constitutional protections, at the same time, this was the epitome of a half-baked, totally non-integral, morality in that only “rights” were focused on, and not responsibility. Was making the movie the moral equivalent of North Korea’s hacking of Sony? I don’t think so, and yet, again, freedom of expression does cost something. Immaturity, self-indulgence, and poor judgment on the movie-makers’ part, in my opinion, showing no regard/responsibility (much less care) for larger concerns in the world. (And I hear it was not a very good movie anyway.)

All that said, I do think there’s some truth in what David Marshall says re: the possible effects of banning and isolating “bad actors.” Reminds me of a line from an old movie, “Cabaret,” set in Nazi Germany: “Those you see are in the daylight; those in darkness can’t be seen.” Scary thought that there are “darker” units of consciousness out there than Alex Jones.