Twitter has finally put an end to the ongoing controversy over how it has refused to completely shut down the accounts of Alex Jones and his online media site Infowars after a number of people complained about abusive content posted by both: it has finally banned both, on Twitter and its video platform Periscope.
“Today, we permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infowars from Twitter and Periscope,” the Twitter Safety account Tweeted moments ago. “We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations.
“As we continue to increase transparency around our rules and enforcement actions, we wanted to be open about this action given the broad interest in this case. We do not typically comment on enforcement actions we take against individual accounts, for their privacy.
“We will continue to evaluate reports we receive regarding other accounts potentially associated with @realalexjones or @infowars and will take action if content that violates our rules is reported or if other accounts are utilized in an attempt to circumvent their ban.
The last 24 hours of Jones’ Twitter feed, which you can still see in its cached form on Google, include Tweets calling CNN fake news, criticism of Marco Rubio and Bob Woodward, and questioning the authenticity of the anonymous source writing in the New York Times about the turmoil in the Trump White House. This is, in one regard, relatively mild compared to some of what Jones has put out in the past.
But the last 24 hours also saw CEO Dorsey appear on Capitol Hill, interrogated by the House Energy Committee over its policies of “shadow banning” and general attitude to conservative politics. The company agreed yesterday to a civil rights audit and abuse transparency reports, so this might potentially be seen as Twitter finally trying way of getting ahead of the process, in what has already become a messy and very tough situation for the company.
The company and Dorsey have been roundly criticised by people in recent weeks, who believed that the company was not being strict enough with enforcing its abusive content policies when it came to Jones. While Dorsey had said that he was doing it in the name of “free speech,” cynics believed it was more related to a reluctance to alienate supporters who make up a substantial chunk of Twitter users. (And to be fair, the criticism has been going on for years at this point, with many people quitting the platform in protest.)
Instead, Twitter took incremental steps to try to handle the situation, including 7-day read-only bans and longer explanations to justify why it was not doing more.
Twitter was essentially the last holdout among a throng of social media platforms — including Facebook and YouTube — that had stopped allowing Jones and Infowars from peddling what many believed not just to be “fake news”, but outright damaging and dangerous false information.