One of the worst things most people can imagine is the horror of losing one’s child to gun violence. For Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner–whose six-year old son, Noah Pozner, was one of the 20 first-graders killed in the Sandy Hook shooting six years ago–the mourning has been compounded by a harassment campaign on- and offline. The couple has had to switch residences seven times in the years since the tragedy, in order to avoid a group of people who believe this very real suffering is all part of an elaborate hoax.
The man who pushed the misinformation that inspired all the harassment has recently been banned from almost all major platforms he relies on to spread lies–all except for one.
News about Alex Jones, the frequently bloviating founder of Infowars.com, hit like a downhill snowball early Monday morning. First Apple banned Jones from iTunes, with Facebook and YouTube following suit shortly afterward. No one deserves a Profile in Courage, but we’re getting somewhere. By the end of the day, only Twitter remained. The company’s executives apparently laid low and surveyed the reaction to the de-platforming in real time, before making a decision. As even more outlets appeared to take stances against Jones, who recently claimed that special prosecutor Robert Mueller runs a pedophilia ring and who is the subject of multiple lawsuits, Twitter held strong. The company would allow Alex Jones to remain a tweeter in good standing.
After the company was bombarded with negative feedback on its own platform throughout Tuesday, CEO Jack Dorsey released a string of tweets at the end of the day explaining the decision. Doing so only served to throw gasoline on the company’s already controversial position.
Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Accounts like Jones' can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Dorsey also linked to a company blog explaining Twitter’s ever evolving rules.
The problem with Dorsey’s explanation is twofold. Firstly, Jones’s accounts don’t just “sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors.” They maliciously disseminate false information while screaming about how disgraceful mainstream media is for not covering it. Jones can only hawk his brain pills if Infowars fans believe that he is the last sane man and that everyone else is lying to them. He uses his Twitter accounts both to indoctrinate his followers and spread his intentionally dishonest gospel.
Secondly, Dorsey’s suggestion that journalists “document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions” totally passes the buck. Worse still, it passes the buck onto a group that already has its hands full exposing a thoroughly corrupt administration while millions believe their every effort is “fake news.” It’s impossible to play whack-a-mole with every Alex Jones lie as it charts a viral course through potentially millions of Twitter moles. The easier, more sensible, and decent thing to do would be for Dorsey and Co. to cut off the flow at the source, once it’s clear that Jones is using his platform the way that he’s proven to have done–and, for now, continues to do.
JUST IN: Mark Enoch, a lawyer for Alex Jones, is attempting to make public the home addresses of two Sandy Hook parents. When I asked if he realized that this could further damage their livelihoods, he hung up on me.https://t.co/LzlBjG4YdG
— Sebastian Murdock (@SebastianMurdoc) August 8, 2018
It would’ve been better for Dorsey and the company’s already embattled image if they had stuck to their guns without explaining further. Instead, their interest in doing whatever it takes to ensure that white supremacists and conspiracy peddlers never feel like victims on this platform now appears more evident than ever.
Fortunately for Twitter, the very journalists the company will be relying on to refute Jones’s lies from now on–because it’s so easy!–will continue to rely on Twitter to spread their own work. As you can see by the tweet below from one writer, though, they don’t have to like it.
.@jack did Sandy Hook. Your move, journalists
— Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) August 8, 2018