The right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones just saw years of his posts removed from major social media platforms, but his Infowars app is surging on the Google Play and iTunes charts.
Infowars Official, an app that lets viewers stream Jones’s shows and read news of the day, was ranked third among trending apps in the Google Play store Thursday. In the news category on Apple’s App Store, Infowars earned the third slot under the top free apps, behind Twitter and News Break, a local and breaking news service, revealing a sudden boost of user downloads.
The rush of interested users comes after influential tech platforms — including Facebook, Google-owned YouTube and Apple — took their most assertive actions yet against Jones and his Infowars brand for violating their rules against hateful language. Facebook removed four of Jones’s pages; YouTube terminated his channel, with its 2.4 million subscribers; and Apple removed the majority of Jones’s podcasts from iTunes and its podcast app.
Twitter, however, has refrained from pulling or suspending accounts linked to Jones. Company chief executive Jack Dorsey tweeted an explanation Tuesday, saying that Jones had not violated the platform’s policies. “We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” Dorsey tweeted, drawing fierce responses to his Twitter feed.
But Web users can still access Infowars through its website and through the same tech companies that just banned it. Google offers the Infowars app for Android users, and Apple customers can download it through the App Store.
Apple told The Washington Post in a statement Thursday: “We put great effort into curating the App Store to provide the very best experience for everyone. We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all."
Unlike Apple’s podcast service, which linked to a list of Jones’s previous episodes, the Infowars app doesn’t offer a catalogue of old shows. Users can watch Jones’s programs only live or via rebroadcasts of shows that recently aired, meaning that people using the app can access specific content only temporarily. But Apple said it continues to “monitor apps for violations of our guidelines, and if we find content that violates our guidelines and is harmful to users we will remove those apps from the store as we have done previously.”
Google also indicated in a statement that the Infowars app had not violated its policies. “We carefully review content on our platforms and products, for violations of our terms and conditions, or our content policies. If an app or user violates these, we take action.” This week, YouTube said that its decision to delete the Infowars channel was prompted by Jones violating a temporary ban against broadcasting live on YouTube.
Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to Infowars.
The sudden clampdown by tech platforms followed by the popularity boost for Infowars is likely to fuel the roiling debate over the role Silicon Valley plays in spreading and policing objectionable material.