Monday, August 6, 2018

Apple Removes Infowars From Podcast Directory

John Paczkowski and Charlie Warzel (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Apple moved first, striking the entire library for five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcasts apps. Among the podcasts, which were removed from Apple’s iTunes directory, are the show War Room and the popular Alex Jones Show podcast, which is hosted daily by the prominent conspiracy theorist.

After that, platforms that have come under far more scrutiny for hosting Jones and his content — Facebook and YouTube — quickly followed suit after long and tortured deliberations. Spotify also did the same.

Facebook (via Valentina Palladino):

We believe in giving people a voice, but we also want everyone using Facebook to feel safe. It’s why we have Community Standards and remove anything that violates them, including hate speech that attacks or dehumanizes others. Earlier today, we removed four Pages belonging to Alex Jones for repeatedly posting content over the past several days that breaks those Community Standards.

BuzzFeed started off talking about the conspiracy theories and that Jones “claimed he was delivering news but didn’t deal in facts,” but in all cases the stated reason for removal was hate speech rather than the informational content of the podcasts.

Update (2018-08-07): Manton Reece:

Facebook and YouTube are conflicted about how to handle this because their model is wrong. Unlike podcasts and blogs, which can live at a custom domain and move between hosting companies, videos on Facebook and YouTube are served directly on those platforms. If the videos are blocked, especially by YouTube which controls nearly all video on the web, there’s no obvious migration path away.

John Gruber:

I’m curious if these companies did this in cooperation, or if Apple acted alone and Facebook and YouTube followed in their wake. It sounds like this was Apple acting on its own and YouTube and Facebook followed their lead.

Kif Leswing:

But if the same person were to fire up the Apple App Store and search for Infowars, they’d pull up Infowars Official, a free app that opens up directly into a feed topped with the most recent video of the Alex Jones Show, which can be viewed live, or listened to as background audio.


The Infowars app doesn’t contain back episodes of the Alex Jones Show, meaning you can’t use it to find the content affected by Apple’s decision.

Shoshana Wodinsky:

Following these removals, the Infowars app was flooded with five-star reviews championing the idea of free speech, with titles like “Infowars WILL NOT be silenced.”

Steve Kovach:

InfoWars is now number 4 in the Apple App Store news category, above CNN and Fox News.

Marco Arment:

Overcast quietly removed Infowars from search last week.

Soon, people noticed, the word spread, and now, business is UP.

Enforcing policies against hate speech on your platform is good for humanity AND good for business.

Josh Centers:

Apple doesn’t host podcasts. As far as I know, the Podcasts app doesn’t prevent you from subscribing to anything you’d like. It’s merely a directory, and they decided to not promote certain podcasts.

Marco Arment:

Overcast doesn’t block any feed URLs from being entered manually.

But I care quite a bit if my app is promoting illegal/hate/etc. content in its search and recommendations.

(Not only is that horrible, I’d be risking removal from the App Store.)

John Whitehouse:

In a statement to Media Matters, MailChimp confirmed it has removed the accounts for Infowars, citing “hateful content”[…]

See also: The Outline.

Update (2018-08-08): Jack Dorsey:

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.

Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. 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.

Update (2018-08-09): Juli Clover:

Apple does not plan to remove the Infowars app from the iOS App Store at this time, the company told BuzzFeed News this evening. Apple said that the Infowars app had not violated its App Store guidelines.

Josh Centers:

It’s pretty simple: Apple has no monopoly on podcasts, but an absolute monopoly on iPhone apps. It doesn’t want anyone to call attention to that.

John Gruber:

Assuming Byers’s reporting is solid, there we have it: Apple led the way.

Update (2018-08-10): John Bowden:

Several tweets and videos posted by InfoWars host Alex Jones were removed from Twitter shortly after they were reported on by CNN on Thursday.

More than a dozen videos and tweets from Jones’s account containing content that apparently violated the site’s content policy were deleted less than an hour after the article by CNN’s Oliver Darcy went live.

John Gruber:

I think Apple’s decision to remove Infowars’s podcasts from the iTunes directory but allow their app to remain in the App Store doesn’t hold water.

John Gruber:

I know Apple loves having control over the App Store, but in today’s climate — polarized politics combined with increasing regulatory scrutiny of tech giants — I suspect they don’t want to draw attention to that control.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2018-08-15): Valentina Palladino:

After holding out for a few weeks, Twitter joined the chorus of social media and tech giants that have punished conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for questionable content. Twitter suspended Jones from his account on Tuesday after he tweeted out a link to a video in which he calls for his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready for the media and others.

But the catch is that Jones’ ban will last just seven days—the InfoWars host will not be able to tweet or retweet from his personal account during that week. The InfoWars Twitter account has not been affected by this suspension.

Update (2018-08-21): See also: The Menu Bar.

M.G. Siegler:

Twitter, on the other hand, constantly seems to be making the decision not to decide. And they don’t seem to realize that’s not actually a decision. And that such indecision manifests itself quite publicly in the issues we’re seeing now.

Update (2018-09-06): Georgia Wells and Kirsten Grind (via Hacker News):

Mr. Dorsey told one person that he had overruled a decision by his staff to kick Mr. Jones off, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Twitter disputes that account and says Mr. Dorsey wasn’t involved in those discussions.

Update (2018-09-07): Twitter Safety:

Today, we permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infowars from Twitter and Periscope. We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations.

Josh Centers:

If you ever wondered what will get you banned from Twitter, this is it.

Chuq Von Rospach:

The decision to ban him was nothing more than finding an excuse to fix a mistake without admitting it. Worse they don’t see it as a mistake, but want out of the controversy.

See also: Hacker News, BuzzFeed, 9to5Mac, Washington Post.

Update (2018-09-08): John Paczkowski and Charlie Warzel (Hacker News, MacRumors):

A day after being banned from Twitter, Alex Jones and Infowars have been booted from yet another platform: Apple’s popular App Store. As of Friday evening, searches on the App Store for Infowars return no results.

Apple confirmed the app’s removal to BuzzFeed News, but declined to comment, pointing to its App Store Review Guidelines. The company said Infowars would not be permitted to return to the App Store.

Update (2018-10-03): Tom McKay (MacRumors):

In an interview with Vice News Tonight’s Elle Reeve, Cook said that getting rid of Jones’ content was a matter of content curation and reassuring users that humans were actually paying attention to what ends up in Apple’s content ecosystem. He also denied the company was responding to any kind of political pressure or that he had ever coordinated his response with executives from other tech companies.


“We have an app called Safari,” Cook added. “Safari is the app for you if you want to look at anything that’s on the free and open Internet that’s not on our app store.”

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

I'm no fan of Alex Jones or Infowars, but I find the idea of the giant tech companies deciding what is acceptable speech to be much more dangerous than a crackpot pundit's website.

"to be much more dangerous than a crackpot pundit's website."

Tell that to the Sandy Hook parents who have had to move 7 times since 2012 due to harassment by Alex Jones-encouraged nutjobs.

Jon H, I did not realize that, simply distasteful. Sorry to hear such tomfoolery abounds.

Seems like it's easy enough to "censor" someone who is delivering hate speech, fightin' words, have no place in a civilized society and even the government has exceptions in place against them. Frankly, private corporations have no real reason to allow such speech given they are not held to the same standard as an actual governmental body. Well, there is something to be said for Safe Harbor provisions. Seems like engaging too overtly in editorializing could compromise such protections, but that's not exactly the problem here.

> much more dangerous than a crackpot pundit's website

People listening to this guy literally *shot* at innocent people because they believed his made-up stories. I agree that there are things that are borderline, and we should err on the side of not banning people. The fact that there are things that are borderline doesn't mean that the line doesn't exist. This is way, way over that line. This is literally a troll telling people to attack other people so he can sell woo-woo products to his gullible audience. It's the podcast equivalent of a Nigerian prince email, with the added benefit of inciting violence.

Not to mention that these companies aren't even "deciding what is acceptable speech". They're just deciding that they aren't going to host his stuff on their own systems. And good for them.

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