This post has been updated with a statement from Google, which owns YouTube.
Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify took their most aggressive steps yet to penalize conspiracy theorist and prominent right-wing talk show host Alex Jones for violating their hate speech policies.
Late Sunday, Apple stripped the majority of podcasts published by Jones’s website Infowars from iTunes and its podcast apps. “Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users,” the company said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
Apple’s decision came after other popular tech platforms, including Spotify, Facebook and YouTube, had removed some of Jones’s offending content. But Apple’s move was the most sweeping yet. The company’s decision to pull the Infowars podcasts was first reported by BuzzFeed. Apple removed five of the six Infowars programs from its listings, including “The Alex Jones Show” and “War Room.”
YouTube on Monday terminated the Alex Jones Channel, telling The Post 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."
In a series of text messages to The Washington Post, Alex Jones called the decisions to remove him from Apple, Facebook and Spotify “a counter-strike against the global awakening.” He accused Apple and Google of colluding with the Chinese government, mainstream news organizations, the Democratic Party and establishment elements of the Republican Party to misrepresent his views and deprive him of platforms that allow him to spread his messages.
“We’ve seen a giant yellow journalism campaign with thousands and thousands of articles for weeks, for months misrepresenting what I’ve said and done to set the precedent to de-platform me before Big Tech and the Democratic Party as well as some Republican establishment types move against the First Amendment in this country as we know it,” he said.
“You’re on the wrong side of history mainstream media,” Jones said in a text message to The Post. “You sold the country out, and now you’re going to pay for it.”
Jones’s Infowars, an outlet known for spreading baseless information and promoting conspiracy theories claims a massive audience. Its YouTube channel, for instance, has more than 2.4 million subscribers and Jones has gained influence in recent years through his endorsement of Donald Trump.
Jones has also drawn intense criticism. He claimed that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax and now faces defamation lawsuits brought by some of the families whose children were killed. Jones has also spread conspiracy theories about teenagers who survived the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla. and more recently claimed that the left was on the verge of starting another U.S. civil war.
Early Monday, Spotify hardened its stance against Jones. The company announced that “The Alex Jones Show” podcast was banned from the platform. Last week, Spotify removed only certain episodes of the podcast, but the music-streaming company said the program continued to defy its rules against hate content. “We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” the company said in a statement to The Post. “Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform.”
Facebook, too, escalated its enforcement. In a blog post Monday, the social-networking platform said it removed four of Jones’s pages for violating its community standards. Facebook previously erased four videos hosted by these pages, but the company said users continued to report offensive content published by them. Now Facebook has unpublished the pages for glorifying violence and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies,” the company said. Facebook took down the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Nightly News Page and the Infowars Page. Last month, Facebook suspended Jones for 30 days.