Last week, Facebook suspended the account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for what the social media platform called “bullying and hate speech,” according to a report from Reuters.
Facebook is also close to removing Jones’ Infowars account from its platform.
Facebook was following the lead of Apple, which also pulled some of Jones’ podcasts from its digital App Store.
Media has described Jones as conservative, far-right, alt-right, and as the nation’s leading conspiracy theorist, according to Wikipedia. He has described himself as a libertarian and a paleoconservative. He has frequently supported Donald Trump and consistently denounced Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the site says.
Jones, who has long been a lightning rod as a radio shock jock, gained notoriety by calling the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and D.C. hoaxes orchestrated by the American government.
Jones also helped propagate “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory that claimed Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.
More recently, he has called the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax, claiming the massacre that killed 20 elementary students and six adults was a manipulation of facts and that some of those involved were actors.
Parents of the victims have filed separate $1 million defamation lawsuits against Jones.
In addition to Facebook and Apple, Twitter is reviewing its community standards policy to determine whether Jones’ content should be removed from its platform.
The social media shutdown of Jones has set off a debate nationally around whether Jones is being unfairly treated because of his political right-leaning views, extreme as they may be. Some claim that Jones is being silenced, that his free speech is being violated, and Sen. Ted Cruz even offered a defense by saying, “First they came for Alex Jones,” equating the media ban on Jones with Nazism.
(As an aside, Jones has accused Cruz’s father of killing JFK.)
For those, including Cruz, who would defend Jones’ conspiracy drivel by accusing social media of limiting his free speech, this is not a free speech issue.
One radio commentator even said Jones was being silenced by Facebook as part of a larger mission to silence all conservative voices.
The First Amendment protects free speech, and no savvy media outlet would push against the very freedom that allows its existence.
But the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee access to any and every forum.
Contrary to what some believe, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, as well as newspapers, magazines, TV news programs, etc., are NOT government-run public forums.
They’re free market businesses that set their own community standards.
They get to decide how their platforms are used and who can or can’t use their platforms, as long as they don’t discriminate based on race, religion or sexual orientation.
Alex Jones’ First Amendment rights have not at all been hindered, hampered, silenced or denied. He can still (and most certainly will) continue to make outrageous claims about the government and launch untrue attacks on his political foes.
But, as free market entities, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and all other media have every right to tell Jones that he can’t use their bullhorn to spread his fake news.
Let him get his own.