Twitter, one of the few tech platforms that has refused to ban Infowars kingpin Alex Jones, admitted on Friday that he had a history of posts that were in clear violation of the site’s terms of service but still won’t terminate his accounts, CNN reported.
Previously, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had gone off on a rambling tweetstorm claiming that Jones “hasn’t violated our rules” and incoherently claiming that it somehow served the public interest to keep him on the platform, since it provided an opportunity for journalists to “document, validate and refute such information directly”. Another Twitter executive, Del Harvey, backed up Dorsey’s shoddy recollection of events.
But this week, CNN compiled a long list of Jones’ posts in which he claimed victims of mass shootings were engaged in some kind of false-flag operation, called Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg a Nazi, smeared LGBTQ people and Muslims and posted an apparent video of a child being abused with the caption “How to Prevent Liberalism: A Public Service Announcement”.
Under the pressure, CNN wrote on Friday, Twitter has admitted that the tweets would have constituted violations of current rules:
A Twitter spokesperson said that the company concluded that of the more than a dozen tweets included in CNN’s Thursday report, seven were found to have violated Twitter’s rules. Twitter would have required those tweets to be deleted, if they were to have remained up.
But after CNN’s investigation was published, the tweets cited in it were almost immediately deleted from the social media website. Jones said on his program Friday that he had instructed his staff to do so and “take the super high road,” though he contested whether the tweets violated any Twitter rules.
Among the seven tweets found to have violated Twitter’s rules, the spokesperson said, two of the tweets occurred recently enough that Twitter could cite them in the future to take additional punitive action against Jones’ accounts.
According to CNN, a Twitter spokesperson was “not immediately able” to identify which of the tweets in question violated its terms of service. The network also wrote that Twitter said Harvey had meant to refer to Jones’ personal account, not the official Infowars one and should have “been more explicit than that”.
In other words, given that recent reports indicated Twitter was taking actions to limit bad actors’ accounts in search results and exploring other measures to try and make conversations on the site less hostile, it looks an awful lot like Dorsey took the ill-advised opportunity to posture against the numerous other sites that have banned Jones.
And it also looks like he did so without bothering to investigate any of the underlying context.
In his tweets explaining his decision to let Jones remain on Twitter, Dorsey said the site was trying not to “succumb and simply react to outside pressure”. Curiously, before Dorsey did that, a conservative pressure campaign including prominent personalities like Texas Senator Ted Cruz had been mounting in defence of Jones and after he did that, he took to Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show to defend the decision.
The platforms that did ban Jones or at least the vast majority of his petty media empire’s content include Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube. Infowars fled to the Google+ social network, which is little used other than by some hobby or professional communities and developers, following his removal from other sites.
That account also appears to be active.
Handing out punishments piecemeal was a clearly untenable position, because every slap on the wrist simply highlighted how feckless that approach was in practice.
Jones is clearly very unlikely to tone down his act even now that the writing is on the wall, so the most charitable interpretation is that the site is just waiting for him to cross the line again before pulling the trigger. But hey, they could always arbitrarily determine he’s above the rules, like the president.