YouTube’s penalizing of Infowars, a notorious source of conspiracies and misinformation, is the latest development in the ongoing challenge internet platforms face in trying to balance free speech with enforcing standards to block hateful and disturbing content.
In two of the Infowars videos deleted by YouTube, Jones railed against Muslims and asserted that they were taking over control of European countries. Another video, titled “How To Prevent Liberalism,” depicted a man shoving a young boy to the ground, while in the fourth video Jones compared the creators of a show featuring animated drag queens to Satanists.
“We have long-standing policies against child endangerment and hate speech,” YouTube said in a statement. “We apply our policies consistently according to the content in the videos, regardless of the speaker or the channel.”
The Infowars violation of YouTube policies count as one so-called “community strike.” Channels that receive three strikes within 90 days are subject to termination, per the video platform’s rules. In addition, channels that receive a strike are suspended from live-streaming for 90 days “or until the associated issue(s) are resolved.”
In a post on Infowars’ website titled “Sharia-Compliant YouTube Removes Videos Criticizing Islamic Immigration,” the site wrote, “YouTube could have simply slapped an age restriction on the videos but instead leapt straight to a copyright strike, further illustrating how this is part of a wider assault to remove the Alex Jones Channel.” Note that YouTube didn’t remove the videos because of a copyright violation but because it determined that the videos ran afoul of its guidelines prohibiting violent and graphic content.
YouTube had issued a previous community strike against Infowars in February 2018 for violating its policy against harassment and bullying, over a video asserting that David Hogg, one of the students who survived the shooting massacre in Parkland, Fla., was a paid actor. (Strikes against a channel expire if the channel stays in compliance with YouTube’s policies for 90 days.)
Meanwhile, Facebook has recently come under fire for not taking steps to suspend Infowars from its platform. The right-wing outlet’s bizarre assertions have included claiming that the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a hoax. In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published Wednesday, the parents of one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook said that Facebook has determined that “our lives are less important than providing a safe haven for hate” by not removing offensive and incendiary content.
On Wednesday, Facebook execs were grilled at the Television Critics Association summer tour about why Infowars was included in the Facebook Watch section. In response, Facebook VP of product Fidji Simo said, “I find Infowars absolutely atrocious. That being said, we have the hard job of trying to find a sense of balance between freedom of expression and safety.”
In Infowars videos posted Tuesday on YouTube and Facebook, Jones accused Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, of covering up for a pedophile and he threatened a “political” shootout with Mueller (saying the special prosecutor is going to “get it,” while pretending to hold a gun). The YouTube video has been removed; Facebook said the video did not violate its policies.