Slowly, and then all at once: That’s how the internet giants decided to end their relationships with Alex Jones, whose Infowars brand has peddled conspiracy theories and other forms of disinformation to large audiences for years.
Since yesterday, Apple Podcasts, Facebook and YouTube — where the Alex Jones channel had more than 2.4 million subscribers — have removed Jones’s presence from their sites, generally citing violations of their terms of service around hate content. Spotify removed some of Jones’s podcasts last week.
All of the platforms had received sharp and deserved criticism for allowing disinformation to flourish. But none seemed willing to draw the line on Infowars — until now.
“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users,” the company said yesterday in a statement. “We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
In Facebook’s case, the company “removed four pages belonging to Mr. Jones for violating its policies by ‘glorifying violence’ and ‘using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants,’” the New York Times reported.
It has taken some evolution of thought — and probably watching its peers make more decisive moves — for Facebook to get there. Almost a month ago, the company’s official Twitter account tweeted: “We just don’t think banning Pages for sharing conspiracy theories or false news is the right way to go.” Then Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, tried to support that sentiment in an interview with Recode, but created his own embarrassing controversy by bringing up — and seemingly defending — Holocaust deniers as a similar example, which he later walked back.
For now, the Infowars app is still available in Apple’s U.S. iPhone App Store, where it is the no. 37 ranked news app, just above Bloomberg’s; it’s possible Apple will pull the plug there, too. @RealAlexJones still has his Twitter account, where he has 830,000 followers; @Infowars has another 418,000. Jones’s podcasts can still be downloaded via RSS feed.
And the infowars.com site is still live. If Jones’s providers have a change of heart, he may eventually have to move to a web host or domain-name registrar that doesn’t disapprove of his content. But it will be nearly impossible to silence him on the open web. There are far darker corners.
Still, the bans from YouTube, Facebook and Apple will hurt. In media, distribution is king. And Jones is no longer welcome on many of the world’s largest video and spoken-audio distribution platforms.
Devoted fans will still be able to watch, read, listen and link to Jones, and people will still be able to make videos and podcasts about Jones’s ideas (unless they themselves violate the platforms’ rules).
But it will be considerably harder for Jones and his ideas to make it to casual, mainstream viewers and listeners. Videos will be more cumbersome to find, share and embed, and will no longer appear in YouTube and Facebook’s discovery engines. The bans — as intended — will almost certainly limit his reach.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.