The Internet. In its most simplified state, the Internet makes platforms. These platforms were once earned and occupied by teachers, scientists, doctors, all of whom are societal authorities that people inherently trust. These platforms are now handed out freely, and we as a society no longer know who to trust. In essence, the internet is largely responsible for the surge of fake news.
Enter Alex Jones, arguably a connoisseur of authority-less platforms. New York Magazine calls Jones the “America’s leading conspiracy theorist.” He has claimed the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, has promoted a now debunked conspiracy theory known as “pizzagate”, and continues to use hateful speech toward Muslims, transgendered people, and people with autism. This sounds ridiculous, but it has had genuinely chilling repercussions.
Noah Pozner was killed in Sandy Hook. Since his death in 2012, his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner have been consistently harassed, receiving death threats and being forced to move seven times. The couple is currently suing Jones for defamation, making it easy to trace these counts of harassment back to Jones.
After reading online about “pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory claiming that human trafficking conducted by democratic officials (most notably Hillary Clinton) was taking place in popular pizza restaurants, Edgar Welch fired gunshots into a restaurant, later telling officials his intention was to “self-investigate.”
Whether it be his advocacy for gun rights or his claim that liberals are planning a “white genocide,” abhorrent hate speech and blatant racism make him a clear proponent of fascism.
Jones was recently banned from a multitude of social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify. These platforms have made it easier for people like Jones and even Donald Trump to do what they have done for years: craft an entire world of their own and weave every single story into one that supports their beliefs. Immediately his ban sparked controversy. It seemed to many a denial of the First Amendment. The First Amendment has solidified that, regardless of how vile your words may be, you’re entitled to believe and say them. That is what the First Amendment does. The First Amendment does not:
Guarantee freedom from consequence.
It does guarantee freedom of platform.
These platforms are not provided by the government. They are instead provided by the individual social media. And each platform does not have any guidance policies that relates to the “freedom of speech” of their users, nor do they need to. These platforms have public policies easily accessible to users, but each one has an explicit statement against any speech that is hateful or promotes violence. It is not their job to guarantee users their first amendment right; they have no obligation to do so. It is their job to create a safe space that is inclusive to all users.
It is easy to disregard Jones as a crazed extremist with his own extreme, right-wing agenda, but before his YouTube channel was deleted, he had 2.4 million subscribers. He is a popular man with a great deal with power, and we as a society cannot continue to allow such atrocious ideals to be spread. It is this vile language, clear elicitation of violence, and the ability of social media platforms to work independently of the Constitution that justify his banning.