Hate speech, like art or obscenity, often is in the mind of the beholder. To my mind, Alex Jones’ qualifies, and not just because I hate it. But because it is an insidious form of hate speech that skirts the line of explicit, imminent threats in favor of longer-term and more underlying ones.
He may not have outwardly advocated to incite violence toward any groups or individuals, but he routinely incites groups and individuals in a way that undermines the security of others, often the victims of actual violence.
His “false flag” attacks on the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings don’t just pour salt into sensitive wounds, they desensitize society from taking actions that would create laws, policies and social norms to prevent them from happening again. As the name of his “show” honestly states, he is conducting “InfoWars” on our sensibilities.
And the only sensible thing to do in response, is to ignore and marginalize what he does.
The worst part of the current debate over whether and which platforms should ban his content is that it is giving Jones more attention than he should have. Fringe conspiracy media mongers have always existed, and the First Amendment protects their right to publish as long as it isn’t explicit hate speech or incites violence.
However, it does not protect his right to be distributed by commercial media platforms -- especially big digital “social media” ones that have amplified his voice, expanded his audience and helped disrupt our common sense.
Kudos to Apple, Facebook and Google/YouTube for exercising some sense. While they have not explicitly banned Jones’ “Info Wars,” they have taken responsibility for censoring segments that step over the line.
Twitter, once again, is acquiescent, asserting its principle for being an open platform for social discourse, even when it’s so off course that it undermines the society it’s supposed to serve.
“We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” Twitter CEO @jack Dorsey tweeted Tuesday in defense of its decision.
In the string, he goes on to acknowledge how Twitter “has been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past” and goes on to assert: “We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account.”
Actually, I know that’s not true, because Twitter does not have a single standard for moderating accounts.
I know this because a while back, I made a case for suspending @realDonaldTrump, at least while he is @POTUS, since his tweets are so powerfully disruptive that they incite violence and inflict pain on both groups and individuals.
Twitter never responded to me, but shortly after, it stated it has a separate policy for treating the accounts of “world leaders.” In response to that, I asked what Twitter’s policy was for defining who is a “world leader.” Again, there was no response.
“Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical that journalists document, validate and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions,” @jack goes on to tweet in his string, passing the buck to others to set the record straight.
“This is what serves the public conversation best,” he concludes, then posts a link to Twitter’s ridiculously long, terse and incredibly subjective “The Twitter Rules,” which is ironically subtitled, “A Living Document.” You can read them in their entirety below.
If you ask me, @jack’s living in the past and hiding behind old Silicon Valley rules that no longer apply.
The idea that digital media platforms are dumb intermediaries for end-to-end users no longer applies. At a time when more Americans get their information -- real news, fake news and the information war-mongering kind -- from social media than they do from traditional, regulated media like TV, radio and newspapers, it’s time to rethink their role and their responsibility as gatekeepers. Otherwise, we should throw away their keys.
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