After doing its best to wrecking the business models of responsible media outlets by not allowing them to reach their audiences, Facebook (along with Apple and Spotify) has finally found the courage to ban conspiracy theorist site 'Info Wars'. The lunatic site run by the deranged Alex Jones has published stories claiming the massacre at Sandyhook elementary school was a hoax and Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant in DC.
I generally do not believe in censorship on the internet, with the exception of promoting and inciting violence. Jones engages in both by spreading demonstrably false hate speech that he knows his followers will act on. The parents of the victims at Sandyhook have been subjected to death threats from InfoWars fans, and Comet Ping Pong restaurant was visited by a viewer who brought an AR-15 rifle into the restaurant and started shooting. Facebook, Apple and Spotify are all private companies and are under no obligation to provide a platform for this type of insanity, and they are right to boot Jones and his crackpot show.
The move has caused deep concern on the far right though, with Breitbart.com publishing the following piece as headline:
Breitbart quoted fellow conspiracy theory outlet Wikileaks at length, claiming the ban was in fact a “global anti-trust problem,” and “San Francisco cultural imperialism," that "reduces political diversity.”
There is some truth to the Breitbart story in that Facebook, Apple and Spotify really are the "Masters of the Universe" in that they control what the vast majority of people on the internet see on a daily basis. Facebook has essentially eaten the media and should be considered a grave threat to the future of journalism and responsible media publishing (see the terrifying effect it has had on our business model here at the Banter). However, Breitbart is framing this as a censorship issue and for completely different reasons.
Breitbart routinely publishes cleverly worded articles that incite racial, religious and minority hatred -- it runs regular pieces on Muslim crime in London on its front page in the US, creates fictitious statistics to corroborate its anti-immigrant rhetoric, and has even gone on record stating that the site publishes fake news to protect and promote president Trump. Breitbart does not publicly condone white supremacy, but an astonishing exposé by Buzzfeed uncovered how Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopolous privately courted far right racists, neo-nazis and white supremacists to create a platform to normalize their views.
Breitbart is clearly concerned that they too will be punished by the major social media platforms and are attempting to turn this into a debate about free speech and the suppression of right wing views. The censorship of Alex Jones and InfoWars is, according to them, an attempt by San Francisco liberals to smash the First Amendment and curtail freedom of speech. They fear Breitbart will come under closer scrutiny and go after their ability to reach their audiences and make money from advertising.
It is hard to garner any sympathy for a site that works day and night to further the objectives of racists and ethno-nationalists, and should the major social media platforms decide they've had enough of helping them make money, you won't hear any protests from us. I am and advocate for free speech, but I am also an advocate for the freedom not to bankroll hatred. Breitbart can continue operating in the dark corners of the web and raise money from racist internet trolls and pro-Trump Republicans for as long as they want to. No one is telling Breitbart or InfoWars to stop publishing, but decent people are finally forcing them to confront the consequences of their behavior.
Breitbart won't fall because of Facebook, Apple or Spotify, but because the majority of Americans will have finally had enough of their bullshit.