"I can't believe they did that," said Holly Hood, director of urban affairs for Maryland's Libertarian Party, in wake of the news that Alex Jones and his website InfoWars had been permanently barred from Twitter.
NOW: Alex Jones BANNED. WHO is NEXT on the Twitter Deadpool??? Call-IN NOW @ 202-521-1320!!! https://t.co/rGuMhRYplm— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) September 7, 2018
"I love Alex Jones. He's my guy. This is very concerning to me because… I thought it was freedom of speech. We're censoring ourselves where we can't say certain things. What he's saying is not inciting riots. I've heard other people say worse things" than what Jones has said on Twitter, Hood said Friday on Fault Lines with Lee Stranahan and Garland Nixon.
Twitter and its video-streaming app Periscope were the final holdouts in the social media landscape allowing Jones and InfoWars to participate on their platforms. Facebook, Apple, YouTube (owned by Google parent company Alphabet) and Spotify decided to part ways with Jones and InfoWars in early August.
— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) September 7, 2018
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was embraced by conservative media at the time for leading the one major social media platform to keep Jones onboard. "We didn't suspend Alex Jones or InfoWars yesterday. We know that's hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn't violated our rules. We'll enforce if he does," Dorsey tweeted August 7.
"At least you were willing to come on this show and answer some questions for some people; I applaud you for that. Facebook and YouTube are in hiding right now under their desks, and they don't want to respond," conservative pundit Sean Hannity said in a radio interview with Dorsey August 8.
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) September 5, 2018
A month later, Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke with members of the US Congress to talk about "election integrity." Making an appearance was none other than Jones, who sat in the front row of the hearing behind Dorsey and Sandberg.
— Simone Perez (@simoneMperez) September 5, 2018
Jones harassed Dorsey and US Senator Marco Rubio in person, and at one point stood up and interrupted a senator during the hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Jones shouted a question about censorship to Dorsey when this iconic photo was captured by Politico's M. Scott Mahaskey.
— POLITICO (@politico) September 5, 2018
Jones also interrupted a press gaggle by heckling Rubio and calling the 2016 Republican presidential hopeful a "gangster thug."
Jones exploited the presence of the dozen video cameras pointed at him and Rubio to engage in self-promotion. "You better hope you can de-platform me. Tens of millions of views. Better than Rush Limbaugh. He knows who InfoWars is. He's playing this joke over here. Hey, the deplatforming didn't work," Jones monologued, before facetiously patting Rubio on the shoulder. "You aren't going to silence me. You are a little gangster thug."
— Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) September 5, 2018
Jones intentionally provoked Dorsey, even though Jones has previously had his account suspended for violating Twitter's rules. And Dorsey had already taken a lot of heat from Silicon Valley and progressives who said Twitter should have followed in Facebook and YouTube's footsteps a month earlier. Standing on metaphorical thin ice, Jones blasted off shortly after arriving at the Dirksen Building of the US Senate on Wednesday.
"I'm here to face my accuser," Jones told reporters. Citing his severed ties with Facebook and YouTube and his then-temporary Twitter suspension, Jones advocated breaking up the tech giants on Wednesday, Politico reported.
So while censorship questions loom over major social media platforms, Jones' removal was a matter of self-prophecy. "The more I'm persecuted, the stronger I get," Jones said August 4, according to the New York Times.
Twitter's behavior policy states: "You may not engage in targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate or silence someone else's voice."
However, Twitter's attempts to follow its own rules have not always gone well. Twitter's "Hateful conduct" rule states that "repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes or other content that degrades someone" would be examples of intolerable behavior.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) September 7, 2018
When it comes to fighting Trump, though, anything seems to go. Keith Olbermann, an award-winning sports and political commentator, cashed in on the hating Trump industry with a book dubbed "Trump is F*cking Crazy" alongside a media blitz in which Olbermann repeatedly called Trump a "stupid, pea-brained, motherf*cking traitor," a "racist, white supremacist, neo-nazi" and a "F*cking lying anti-Democracy F*ck." It's hard to see what the point of calling someone a "motherf*cking traitor" would be if it's not to degrade. Perhaps Olbermann can get away with it because of how it dovetailed with a commercial strategy to sell a book.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) May 29, 2018
Olbermann hasn't been booted from Twitter for hateful conduct, despite his repeated verbal assaults.