BBC reports that US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been banned from Twitter for a number of tweets that violated the site’s terms of service.
YouTube, Spotify and Facebook also deleted his content last month, citing ‘hate-speech’ concerns. When these other services deleted Jones’ content Twitter was criticised for not doing – but defended their decision on the grounds that he had not violated their Terms of Service.
Jones is currently being sued by the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, due to his reports claiming that the incident was faked and the children were ‘crisis actors’.
His claims have led to the grieving parents being harassed and receiving death threats.
According to NBC News on 2017 Edgar Maddison Welch was sentenced to four years in prison after he fired a rifle in a Washington Pizza hut. Jones had claimed that the restaurant’s basement was being used by Hilary Clinton and other Democratic Party leaders to host a child sex-trafficking ring.
The restaurant didn’t even have a basement.
In July The Hill reported that Jones made a similar claim against Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian interference in the US elections, and imagined shooting him.
USA Today reported that Jones lost primary custody of his children last year. During the custody battle his lawyer argued that Jones was not nuts, but rather a ‘performance artist’.
His wife’s lawyer meanwhile accused Jones of being a ‘cult leader’ who was indoctrinating their children to hate their mother.
I am generally in favour of free speech, and so far as I can see hate speech laws don’t work. In South Africa we have had multiple very public cases where racist hate-speech has been punished with huge fines and jail time, yet people persist in using the K word.
I suspect that the perception of inconsistent enforcement is actually making racism worse. Further when you look internationally Glenn Greenwald has written about how these laws tend to be applied in a way that shuts down leftwing dissent.
Twitter is a private business so legally it isn’t bound by the American first amendment or any other free speech law. To compel speech would violate free speech as much as to silence it would.
I think that the base arguments for free speech protections when it comes to governments also apply to big social media platforms.
We are in the corporate age when in all practicality big enough businesses are almost governments in terms of power.
That said, I don’t think anybody’s standard of free speech extends as far as Jones has historically pushed it. Defamation has never been protected speech, and while truth can be a defense his own lawyer argued that his show is all ‘performance art’.
So he himself doesn’t believe his own reportage, he knows he’s lying when he says this stuff.
The main motivation for Jones appears to be hawking his products. Bruce Lee has an article on Forbes going into ten cases where his conspiracy theories are designed to sell his wares, which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
As much as I personally favour freedom of speech, that does not extent to it being the right to defame the grieving parents of children who got massacred, in order to hawk BS ‘supplements’.