Over the past three weeks, social media platforms have begun to remove Infowars – the notorious website and podcast run by conservative comentator Alex Jones – content from their sites. Infowars is one of the most polarizing and controversial political platforms on the internet. On several occasions, Alex Jones has made a fool of himself with wild theories and obnoxious rants, centering around immaculate conspiracies and alt-right ideals. The removal of content from these sites has sparked a heated debate about the right of sites to censor certain information.
This debate has closely followed the pre-drawn political lines of conservative versus liberal ideologies. Conservatives from all over the world have rushed to the defense of Jones, claiming that the removal of his podcasts from Spotify and content from Facebook is unjustified and should not be allowed in the U.S., a country which holds free speech as one of its greatest freedoms.
On the other hand, liberals have cited the amount of hate speech present in these podcasts as the justified reason for removal, similarly to the sites that have removed it. Left-wingers see Alex Jones as a threatening figurehead for an ever-growing alt-right unafraid to use violence to push its agenda (i.e.Charlottesville).
“Reporters or platforms that wish to comment on the most controversial parts of popular society (such as the Black Lives Matter movement) will be afraid to push their opinions – opinions crucial to the ideals of peer-review and freedom of speech.” – Jacob Maranda ’22
This is all on the back of outcry among government and non-government officials alike for social media sites to take more responsibility in their spreading of information, whether said information be legitimate or not (that’s a whole other argument).
Mark Zuckerberg, infamous CEO of Facebook, has said on several occasions that Facebook will protect the rights of its users to post whatever they want. Now, Facebook is deleting posts of the users it has sworn to protect.
I’m not here to say whether Infowars is the truest news source you can follow or if it’s the scourge that will lead the U.S. to the next Holocaust.
This issue extends much farther than just Infowars, and sheds light onto a new, dangerous trend taking place among large, influential platforms such as Google and Facebook.
Google, which owns YouTube – one of the most frequented video platforms on the internet – has also began censoring content. Videos from content creators across YouTube began to be taken down, with citations ranging from hate speech to inappropriate content to low quality of content.
The problem of sites such as YouTube and Facebook revolves around who gets to decide what gets censored and what doesn’t.
Google and Facebook have partnered with millions of individuals across the world to catch any inappropriate content. Many of these individuals are under the wings of corrupt countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Russia, and powerful corporations like HSBC and Raytheon, who have the power to pour millions of dollars into Facebook and Google to continue to allow their influencers to censor content.
This means that Facebook can gain popular opinion by nixing sites like Infowars, while also removing content from creators whose posts don’t line up with the lobbyists who give money to Facebook. Thus begins an endless and dangerous cycle of censorship, in which slightly partial, informative platforms can be cut off without backlash.
This kind of censoring has the potential to set a perilous precedent, in which reporters or platforms that wish to comment on the most controversial parts of popular society (such as the Black Lives Matter movement) will be afraid to push their opinions – opinions crucial to the ideals of peer-review and freedom of speech.
In the end, America is heading toward a Soviet-like, state-run news media, in which all opinions that don’t agree with the ideals of the current administration will be shot down, or, at the whim of powerful and corrupt corporations, not shared at all. The censorship of Infowars and Alex Jones, while possibly a beneficial act, is only the beginning of something else.
Jacob Maranda ’22 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Rock Island, Ill. His major is undeclared.