The debate raging over Facebook, iTunes and Spotify's decision to boot crackpot conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his lunatic site 'InfoWars' from their platforms is continuing to heat up.
Many right wing media figures are incensed that Jones, a man who claims the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school was a "false flag", and Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant in DC, has been de-platformed and had his voice suppressed. It is, they argue, a freedom of speech issue, with podcast host Joe Rogan going as far as to claim that Alex Jones has been right "about a lot of stuff".
It is somewhat bizarre that those on the right would have an issue with private businesses shutting someone like Jones down for violating their terms of service, particularly when many of them have, for example, argued for the rights of business owners not to serve gays on the basis of their religious beliefs.
No one is telling Alex Jones he can't speak, but given he has incited violence through hate speech on numerous occasions, private businesses are clearly entitled to kick him off for clearly violating their terms of service. Jones's actions have led to death threats to the parents of Sandy Hook victims and a madman with a gun shooting up the pizza restaurant where Hillary Clinton allegedly ran her pedophile ring.
As if to prove the major social media platforms right, Alex Jones took to Periscope (owned by Twitter) yesterday to urge his supporters to get their guns and start shooting up America's enemies (the media, antifa, "Chicom operatives" who ever that is...):
Jones was banned from Twitter for 7 days for this clear incitement of violence.
It is worth repeating this: banning Alex Jones from social media isn't an attack on his freedom of speech, it is taking away his right to speak on platforms owned by private companies. Alex Jones is free to continue shouting about gay frogs and liberal attempts to turn America into a Communist utopia on street corners, public parks, or on whatever platform will still have him. The government isn't shutting down his right to speak, so this isn't a First Amendment issue, as even conservative rag The Daily Caller accepts. Writes Carl Szabo:
Each platform publishes terms of service that operate as an agreement between the platform and users who post content. Not solely for legal compliance, these agreements also inform users how they may and may not use the platform. These agreements also outline the rights of the platforms to moderate content. And platforms like Facebook and YouTube implemented robust community standards and guidelines that minimize arbitrary takedowns of content. Even the website managed by Alex Jones has terms of service describing content it allows and disallows: “If you violate these rules, your posts and/or username will be deleted. Remember: you are a guest here. It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted.”.... Choosing how to moderate content is crucial for any business running a digital platform. The type of content they choose to host will determine how the platform is used and the audience they attract and retain. Few people would use a platform if they are persistently offended and upset about content posted there. Platforms that want widespread adoption will, therefore, moderate content that is commonly deemed inappropriate. Alex Jones is a controversial character and his content is often written to be offensive to a segment of the public. Why should a private company be obligated to host this content if they don’t want to?
They shouldn't be obligated to host his content, and given Jones is continuing to violate their terms, he knows exactly what the deal is. By going back on social media and trying to start a civil war in America, Jones has undermined any rational case in his defense. He is still free to say whatever he wants of course, but businesses are not obligated to harm their long term viability by hosting him.