The “Fake News” Conspiracy theory site “Infowars” and its top reporter Alex Jones have been contentious points of discussion for some time. Although the points made by those made in favor and against the site and its members are quite varied, the issue’s primary point of contention can be summarized as follows:
“Infowars is attempting to excercise its right to free speech by creating content that appeals to its audience and to its followers, and should not be censored from social media as it represents a group of people who deserve a right to share their opinions, just like anyone else.”
“Infowars commonly posts fake news that it tries to pass off as factual or real, when in fact its pieces have very little real basis to go off of. In the past, it has been successful in “fooling” people into believing its fake stories, with one major incident resulting in this. In addition, a number of its pieces are discriminatory or derogatory to certain groups or peoples and thus violate the anti-harassment laws of the social media sites it is posting on.”
In the past month and a half, most social media sites have sided against Infowars, and the platform was banned / had its content removed from the Apple iTunes Store, Facebook and Spotify. And until recently, the only piece remaining in this controversial puzzle was Twitter, which refused to ban Infowars or Jones because, according to them, “he (Alex Jones) hasn’t violated our rules“. Recently, things seem to have changed.
According to a report on the topic by CNet, Twitter has placed the account on read-only mode for 7 days, which disallows them from posting content or replying to Tweets made by other users. They were also required to delete the offending Tweet, a message asking viewers to “ready their battle rifles” against media sources in the coming days, and a message that marked journalists and reporters as the enemy.
This message violated Twitter’s views on hate speech and discrimination because it actively called for or encouraged violence against another group. The tweet managed to slip past Twitter’s banning algorithms undetected, until several journalists wrote about it and raised it to the attention of Twitter officials.
Normally, hundreds of tweets like these are caught and detected by Twitter’s automatic banning algorithms, but it is likely that this particular threat made it through those algorithms because algorithms like those tend to function on word-matching, and would hence be designed to target phrases like “kill” or “dead” or “deserves death”, etc. “Ready your battle rifles” could easily slip through such a system.
But aside from this seven-day ban, Twitter has not mentioned any plans to take further action against Infowars as a platform, for better or for worse. It is possible that Twitter officials plan to investigate the past and future Tweets of Inforwars more closely moving forward, and it is also possible that the platform may look to take further action if they find something in the backlog of Infowars’ tweets that further violates their policies.
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