The Jury Talks Back


Facebook Bans Alex Jones for the Wrong Reasons

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:57 am

Alex Jones is the fella who said Sandy Hook was a hoax. I do not care if private companies like Facebook don’t want such obvious libel and slander on their sites. But as David French argues in the New York Times, social media is banning him for a different reason, and it’s not a good idea:

So on Monday, when Apple, Facebook and YouTube acted — in seemingly coordinated fashion — to remove the vast bulk of Mr. Jones’s content from their sites, there’s no cause for worry, right? After all, this was an act of necessary public hygiene. A terrible human being who has no regard for truth or decency is finally getting what he deserves.

Would that it were that simple.

There are reasons to be deeply concerned that the tech companies banned Alex Jones. In short, the problem isn’t exactly what they did, it’s why they did it.

Rather than applying objective standards that resonate with American law and American traditions of respect for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, the companies applied subjective standards that are subject to considerable abuse. Apple said it “does not tolerate hate speech.” Facebook accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “glorifying violence” or using “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “hate speech and harassment.”

These policies sound good on first reading, but they are extraordinarily vague. We live in times when the slightest deviation from the latest and ever-changing social justice style guide is deemed bigoted and, yes, “dehumanizing.” We live in a world where the Southern Poverty Law Center, a formerly respected civil-rights organization, abuses its past trust to label a host of mainstream organizations (including my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom) and individuals as “hate groups,” “white nationalists” or “anti-Muslim extremists,” based sometimes on disagreements about theology or sexual morality or sometimes on outright misreadings and misrepresentations of an individual’s beliefs and views.

Exhibit A of how wrong the center has been: In June, it paid Maajid Nawaz $3.375 million for labeling him an “anti-Muslim extremist.” This is rich, considered Mr. Nawaz is a former Islamist turned Muslim reformer.

Maajod Nawaz is the co-author, with Sam Harris, of a book I recently read and recommend: Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue. Nawaz is no more an anti-Muslim extremist than I am an alt-right Trumpalo. Nawaz is part of the solution: a Muslim actively trying to rid Islam of Islamism and extremism. He’s the very guy that critics of Islam are always clamoring for: where are the people condemning extremism from within? But to the same New York Times in which French writes, the SPLC is still an Authority. And the New York Times will use the concept of hate speech in a one-sided fashion: employing an anti-white racist on their editorial page even as they cite an SPLC that denounces reformers like Nawaz as extremists.

French says: sure, get rid of Alex Jones for his slander. Not his “hate speech.” That’s how First Amendment jurisprudence deals with bad actors, and while it’s not required for private companies, it’s a good model.

What I don’t agree with is the “let’s terrorize them with government” approach that even Ted Cruz has taken lately, suggesting that we break up the big social media companies because they’re big. Like it or not, they’re successful because people like them and use them. Don’t take away freedom of choice just because the companies are predictably leftist in their bent. Criticize and compete. That’s the American way.


  1. I agree but this will not be a popular idea on the right. I think that’s because the right isn’t very good at competing, especially when it comes to the media.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 8:02 am

  2. Specifically, some on the right will say the media is too important and the future of civilization is at stake, so we have to use government to fix the media this time. Government is a tool to win, and principles are expendable when you aren’t winning.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 8:05 am

  3. Right on cue:

    Forty-three percent of Republicans think President Trump “should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior,” while only 36 percent disagreed with the statement, according to an Ipsos poll released Tuesday.

    A large number of Republicans polled also seem to take issue with the media in general, with 48 percent agreeing that the news media is “the enemy of the American people.” Seventy-nine percent said mainstream media outlets treat Trump “unfairly.”

    Republicans have gone insane, like their equals on the Left.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 10:37 am

  4. I see this all the time in the “2A” community. I use quotes because, too often, the folks are really not familiar with what the restrictions are, and where they come from. So they want a strict interpretation of the 2nd amendment, but a loose interpretation of the 1st, and 3rd, 4th…to allow the government to step in and control private parties.

    So the thing to keep the evil leftist private property owner from implementing the evil government’s desire to ban firearms is…the great and powerful government.

    Then comes that the silly argument that Facebook, Youtube, etc are in effect public squares, you know, not public squares. PragerU tried this in court and were bounced post haste.

    The next is that Facebook, Amazon, Youtube, Apple are monopolies. But the question is in what, what is the industry that is a monopoly of, and what is the remedy, the fact that the argument isn’t on a ground most of them is a primary business, then its not a monopoly, just dominating a market isn’t enough for it to be a monopoly. And even if it was, the remedy, see Standard Oil, is to break them up, but you cannot close them down. So you end up with Facebook sans Instagram, Google sans Youtube, etc. What does that mean, does a split company with the exactly the same platform do something differently. You don’t break them up and hand the assets to some third party that is friendly to some viewpoint, they are still private property, and the owners will demand value and a say.

    So then you go back to government regulation, but on what grounds, it takes you back to the initial point in the circle…if they’re private property, how would the 1st amendment apply for government to show cause?

    Having said all that, in most cases, there is a contract law argument since the TOS are either too vague or specific so that users can’t really know what it truly means. But it’s been proven in court, on a daily basis, that a TOS agreement has about as close to zero value as possible, and the nearly inexhaustible budget to defend themselves in court, all the power is on the side of the companies.

    I’d rather the platforms just come out and specifically ban folks and the TOS says “Our house, you must leave when we say”. This is one of those things where they’d be better off with a more balanced approach, and “hate speech” is pretty nebulous, I hate Michigan, it’s full of booger eaters, well, that’s just a fact.

    Oh yeah, you gotta bake a cake for a (fill in the blank), so that argument would again be, let’s have the government use the same force to influence the baker, to enforce the same rules against Facebook. So the thing conservatives hate, except for the one-off where we want it.

    Plus, plus, it’s Alex Jones, so I would never want to defend him, he’s pure scum. Maybe he can get the ACLU to defend him.

    Comment by Colonel Klink — 8/7/2018 @ 11:10 am

  5. What jumped out at me from the “reasoning” given for banning that nutjob was the vagueness, coupled with an utter lack of specifics. Together, those two factors are damning.

    Let’s use a prosecution as an analogy; let’s say a prosecutor strolls into court, points at the defendant, and with his opening remarks declares, “That man has committed murder! And I hereby rest my case.” And that’s it, the case goes to the jury.

    My guess is that so doing might not go overly well for the prosecutor. The jury, after all, might (I would hope!) wish to know who was murdered, and how.

    So far, all they have done is post accusations. “HAte speech” without giving examples of same. Claims of doxing and bullying without giving examples. (okay, in the case of doxing, I don’t want them reposting the actual docs, but, at least give specifics as to what Jones actually did that qualifies as doxing).

    I fully support these companies’ right to terminate Jones, because they are indeed private companies and thus the 1st amendment does not apply. However, I do think they deserve condemnation and ridicule for it.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 8/7/2018 @ 12:46 pm

  6. Apple was the only one that said “hate speech” and banned him, but only via the feed on iTunes, his app is still in the app store, with the adult flag.

    Facebook has been warning him for years about singling out individuals and slandering them with calls for violence, etc. When he complained about a strike last year, they posted a link for him of over 100 instances of breaking the rules.

    Youtube has also been giving him strikes for years, he loves to complain about it, its closer to the “Hate speech” reason for Apple.

    Fundamentally, as Jones has been getting more press for him being sued over Sandy Hook, it shines a bright light on these platforms where the info was distributed, so I’m sure there was a meeting where they said, boot him, then justify it. If Jobs was still the CEO of Apple, it probably would have been a more blunt response.

    Comment by Colonel Klink — 8/7/2018 @ 1:05 pm

  7. Plus, plus, it’s Alex Jones, so I would never want to defend him, he’s pure scum. Maybe he can get the ACLU to defend him.

    That reminds me of when the ACLU defended the American Nazi Party’s right to demonstrate in Skokie. The ACLU took the case from the town all the way to the Supreme Court. It was, IMO, what the First Amendment and the ACLU shoukd be about — defending everyone’s right to speak. But, we’ve “progressed” far beyond that concept now. I can’t imagine the ACLU doing it now.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 3:21 pm

  8. The reason I say this is that it is easy to defend messages we like. The real test is defending messages we don’t like.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 3:48 pm

  9. I would not be surprised if the ACLU makes a statement – however, I don’t thing there is a real case to bring, given they are public corporations and not public governmental organizations.
    I agree with ArizonaCJ intuit it’s their right to do this, but our right not to like it.
    It seems to me that we’ve exchanged “feelings” for “free speech”, meaning that we think things should be “fair” regardless of whether they are right or wrong. We need to accept that being “uncomfortable” over certain things is a necessary component of modern life, and “fairness” as admirable as it is, is sometimes not what happens, nor should it. Tough, and sucks in the individual, but in the general necessary, I think.

    Comment by TomM — 8/7/2018 @ 4:23 pm

  10. I made a horrible mistake and posted on the other side.

    You get sucked into the Ship of Theseus arguments where they start with alternative reality as fact.

    I have lost every bit of an hour and a half on it today. Of course, this is a pet issue of mine, so I want people to know actual things that are important to Americans, like the Constitution, limitations of Government. You know, conservative things.

    Don’t get suck in, Don’t get suck in, Don’t get suck in…

    Comment by Colonel Klink — 8/7/2018 @ 5:14 pm

  11. Don’t get suck in, hah, that…is…funny.

    Comment by Colonel Klink — 8/7/2018 @ 5:15 pm

  12. Tom,

    You are right. This involves private companies, not state action, so there is no First Amendment issue. I’m sorry if I gave that impression. It just reminded me of the Skokie case because they both involved unpopular messages, but the answer here is in civil law remedies.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 6:04 pm

  13. Sadly, I’ve given up on the main website’s commenters, Colonel, and I didn’t just lose an hour and a half. I lost over 10 years that I spent caring about the website and its people. I’m glad for The Jury.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 6:07 pm

  14. DRJ – Please!
    I got what you were saying and I agree, and actually the Skokie thing is a real positive example of doing the right thing even when it’s hard (something the nation seems to have collectively forgotten).
    I simply meant that they probably would not get involved as it’s private business, but I wish they’d make a statement or something.

    I too have given up on the main side of the blog, after years of lurking. I only wish that the host would comment here occasionally – though maybe he does not feel the need to often because you do a great job of it, yourself.
    Anyway, thanks the opportunity to post!

    Comment by TomM — 8/7/2018 @ 6:31 pm

  15. I’m thrilled to see you and Colonel Klink here, and we can make the comment section here work. You both have interesting thoughts/perspectives and you welcome challenges. That makes good discussions.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 7:42 pm

  16. Sorry about the First Amendment thing. It isn’t something that many internet commenters seem to know about anymore, and I don’t want my comments to make it worse.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/7/2018 @ 7:45 pm

  17. I don’t see how you could along with the Skokie decision, that was needless provocation of people who had been nearly wiped out, and my friend clarice discovered some of their persecutors had been admitted into this country, more in Australia and Canada, but still.

    Comment by Narciso — 8/8/2018 @ 6:26 am

  18. The Marxist thugs who attack police, still have accomodations on all their platform, shall we wait till they actually kill someone?

    Comment by Narciso — 8/8/2018 @ 6:38 am

  19. Alex Jones is a knave, but there are many more who don’t get deplatfirmed, like say Mr. Coates

    Comment by Narciso — 8/8/2018 @ 6:45 am

  20. There will always be someone who thinks other people are engaged in “needless provocation” and then there won’t be any place for speech or demonstrations.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/8/2018 @ 7:36 am

  21. Perhaps their entire town province was utterly annihilated, drj ymmv. Noe the knave that organized that March had issues.

    Comment by Narciso — 8/8/2018 @ 7:39 am

  22. Narciso,

    Skokie shows America jurisprudence can (*) make hard and unpopular decisions regarding free speech. Anyone’s speech could be unpopular tomorrow so we want government to protect all speech, even unpopular speech.

    (*) It could then, but who knows about now?

    Comment by DRJ — 8/8/2018 @ 7:41 am

  23. There is a legal doctrine that we won’t protect speech that incites imminently lawless action. It was established in the Brandenburg case. Hate speech proponents sometimes argue that speech they don’t like is an incitement to violence. “Needless provocation” sounds like you think that, too.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/8/2018 @ 7:46 am

  24. You’re just trolling now – you may not think Ta-Nehisi Coates is a good guy or a good writer but you really can’t compare him to Alex Jones. To pretend he should be de-platformed like Jones is nonsense. Regardless of whether it’s “right” ot “wrong” to de-platform Jones; Coates’ writing is nothing like what Jones does, and to infer it is a churlish lie.

    Hating Coates is like the someone on the Left hating a thought-provoking writer from the right, like Kevin Williamson.
    Most people here probably think Williamson is a “better”, “fairer” writer because he writes things from a perspective that is comfortable, understandable and less threatening.
    Coates writes from a perspective that most of us don’t get, or have any knowledge within our past experience.
    But he’s not necessarily wrong – from his point of view.
    Misguided, maybe and mistaken, maybe – which is how Williamson is looked at by many on the left.
    But we did not grow up black in the urban center of Baltimore during the crack epidemic (that’s an assumption)
    We did not grow up in a family of Black scholars and political activists (that’s an easier assumption, certainly!)
    We can’t really “get” what created his world view.
    The point is – we don’t live in Coates’s world – or Williamson’s world.
    But the point is nobody lives in Alex Jones’s world, because while we maybe can’t “get” where Coates is coming from, or if you’re irreligious, from where Williamson comes from, at least their experiences are authentic – not are fake or made up.
    The world Alex Jones inhabits (in his head, at least) is not real, it’s an alternate universe.

    Comment by TomM — 8/8/2018 @ 5:27 pm

  25. Ah o hot a nerve, Coates deludes himself into thinking he’s Baldwin or Dubois, Jones is a nobody in the big scheme of things, Coates has been inciting violence for quite sometime which his grievance narrative, but in the day to day, the prize for irresponsibility goes to all Sharpton from tawana Bradley to Freddie fashion mart to the long island rail road shooting

    Comment by Narciso — 8/8/2018 @ 7:09 pm

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