About a year ago, I wrote about how the tech industry’s handling both hate speech and free speech issues. Since then, the past year’s seen more hate speech issues arise.
The most recent issue’s InfoWars, an “alt-right” website. Run by one Alex Jones, it’s noted for, like Breitbart, engaging in inflammatory rhetoric and ludicrous conspiracy theories. He’s being sued by parents of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting for defamation, which Jones claims was a “hoax.”
Recently, the major tech sites’ patience with InfoWars has apparently finally reached their limit. As of this writing, it’s been kicked off the following platforms:
- YouPorn (a pornographic website it was on, for some reason)
That said, its apps are still present on Google Play and Apple’s app store, and have seen a surge in downloads.
Twitter stands by not booting InfoWars
However, one major platform’s made clear it’s not planning to give InfoWars the boot: Twitter. The reasons given by Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, is that Jones somehow hasn’t violated Twitter’s terms of service:
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Dorsey later threw in this additional tidbit: that it’s journalists’ job to determine what’s true and what’s false, while basically admitting InfoWars is spreading false statements:
One of the most important constituencies we serve is our journalist population. Has been since day 1. We don’t mean to shift the work here. We must build tools to help (and need to work together to do that). We can’t be a useful service without the integrity journalists bring. https://t.co/sARY4SgsHt
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
As for some of the things InfoWars has tweeted, the BBC offers a list, including:
- The Democrats were planning to launch a civil war on Independence Day.
- Muslims in England demanded the Queen convert to Islam or leave the country.
- “Transgenderism” is a CIA plot to “depopulate humanity,” plus associating mental illness with child abuse.
- Accused Obama in 2013 of being the “head of al-Qaeda.”
Why Twitter’s wrong about needing to keep InfoWars (and other “alt-right” types)
I admit I had a hard time thinking of anything new to say I didn’t already say last year, or hasn’t already been said by everyone else. But given the current state of things, repetition might be worthwhile. So, to summarize:
- The first amendment applies to the government, not privately run forums like social media networks or blogs. I’m not obliged to support hate speech rhetoric on this blog, and neither is Twitter.
- Simply ignoring harassment or hate speech isn’t an option, especially if Twitter, etc. desire their platforms to stay usable or pleasant environments.
- Tech companies need to hire more women and LGBTQ/non-White individuals.
There’s also no use in engaging with people like Alex Jones for any type of “debate” or “reaching out to the other side.” “Black Lives Matter” and “I don’t view Blacks/gays/immigrants as equals and vow to punch down at them as much as I can” aren’t “equal” positions. Debating others with the latter views doesn’t work—all the “free speech” in the world isn’t going to change the mind of someone who already views me as a second-class citizen. If anything, allowing such bigoted rhetoric to flourish unchecked just serves to turn platforms like Twitter into less pleasant places.
Thus, I say Twitter should show Jones and similar types the door. If they want to post about why people who look like me are evil incarnate or express similar “free speech,” they can do it on their own blogs. No amount of traffic (and ad revenue) generated for a site’s worth allowing hate speech an unchecked open forum. If Twitter can ban alt-right types like Milo Yiannopoulos, they can ditch InfoWars and other trolls abusing their platform.