Apple’s ‘Infowars’ move thrusts tech giant into the debate over censoring content on internet platforms

“Apple Inc. removed links from its podcast directory to content from controversial far-right site Infowars, thrusting the tech giant into the debate over how internet platforms should handle divisive or offensive content,” Tripp Mickle reports for The Wall Street Journal. “The iPhone maker said Sunday that it eliminated Infowars from its directory over the weekend for failing to comply with guidelines that are designed to create a safe environment for users, including prohibitions on ‘hate themes.'”

“Eliminating easy access to Infowars podcasts marks a rare, prominent foray for Apple into an issue confronting many major internet companies: how to remove hateful or conspiratorial messages from their platforms without infringing on free speech,” Mickle reports. “Infowars, a site that frequently promotes conspiracy theories, and its host Alex Jones have often been at the center of the debate over controversial content.”

“Apple doesn’t host podcasts. Instead, podcast creators host the media files and submit a podcast feed for inclusion in Apple’s iTunes Store podcast directory. That makes the podcast easier to find on one of the 1.3 billion Apple devices worldwide. When podcasts that don’t comply with its rules are removed from Apple’s directory, they are no longer searchable or available for download or streaming,” Mickle reports. “Apple didn’t specify what part of Infowars’ content violated its rules.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Of course, the inherent danger of censorship is that you make the censored more alluring by elevating their musings into ideas too “dangerous” to hear.

Obviously, this could be a slippery slope. For example, CEO Tim Cook, and by extension, Apple, are very big environmentalists and proponents of the reduction of carbon footprints, multinational treaties in service of dealing with anthropogenic climate change, etc. What happens to podcasts of anyone questioning the usefulness of certain treaties, datasets, estimates, projections, or the amount of human contribution to climate change?

As always in circumstances like these, where’s the line? Apple can certainly determine what constitutes “hate speech” for their service(s) and act accordingly, but as censorship increases, usefulness and breadth will naturally decrease.

Note also that Infowars.com’s The Alex Jones Show and other podcasts are readily availble elsewhere via Stitcher and other outlets.

Unlike Apple, it seems, we trust the intelligence of our readers to be able to listen to what they want and decide for themselves who to ignore and who to follow.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. — Evelyn Beatrice Hall

SEE ALSO:
Apple removes most of Alex Jones’ Infowars podcasts from iTunes Store – August 6, 2018
Apple signs on to full page ‘open letter’ ad urging President Trump to keep U.S. in Paris Agreement on climate change – June 1, 2017

60 Comments

  1. “Unlike Apple, it seems, we trust the intelligence of our readers to listen to what they want and decide for themselves who to ignore and who to follow.”

    Most of your readers are not Windows/Android suffers. 😉

    1. MDN said wrongfully said:

      “Apple can certainly determine what constitutes “hate speech” for their service(s) and act accordingly…”

      No, Apple cannot determine what constitutes hate speech. It is alarming that you would even say that. A private company is in no position to determine what is hate speech. This is a serious matter that involves the law, and specifically the constitution and the common law. Those who determine what is hate speech are the courts and legislators, not Apple.

      Apple may take from the legislation and common law and apply it, but in this case, what exactly did Infowars do to get banned…

      1. Apple cannot determine what is hate speech, but Apple can decide what they wish to publish or not. They must be ready to accept the criticism for making political decisions though. They must be ready to be called hypocrites among other things. They should be ready to back up their decisions. And they should be consistent across the board. No matter who is making the hate speech.

        This is why I also don’t think THEIR news curators should be picking what is important for me to read.

        1. And as long as you can get that content for your device from someone other than Apple, that would be fine. Not the case with Apps….

          Imagine if your car radio prohibited right wing stations!
          How else would I fuel my contempt for them?

      2. MDN didn’t “wrongfully” say, “Apple can certainly determine what constitutes ‘hate speech’ for their service(s) and act accordingly.” That is a simple statement of fact. Apple’s definition of “hate speech” applies to their service(s). It’s not at all difficult to understand if you have at least an average IQ.

        1. FactChecker:

          Hate Speech is a legal term directly rooted in law, not some made up term or one that a private company defines. Anyone with an average IQ knows that.

          You Americans’ First Amendment protects freedom of speech, even speech that expresses a person’s hate toward something.

          See your Supreme Court of the United States case: Matal v. Tam.

          Now, let’s move on to the next step. If Infowars has not engaged in Hate Speech, then Apple can be deemed to be censoring content. Censorship is something that you fanboys have been critical of Google engaging in.

          In other words, Apple can do whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean it’s right, or legal. Apple is also not immune from legal action from developers and content providers in the past over Apps that were removed, etc.

          Then we have the matter of other content on Apple’s platform, such as derogatory music, other Podcasts, etc. Apple will need to square away other content that is on its platform now that they have done this to Alex Jones.

          I still have not seen or heard what specifically Infowars has done to get removed or what would support them being labeled with propagating hate speech.

          1. Among a myriad of other things, Jones directly attacked the families of the murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which moved his followers to conduct a campaign of harassment that made the families’ lives more hellish than they already were. He has never issued a meaningful apology but continues to push equally outrageous conspiracy theories to this day. Jones has the right to his opinions, but not to make up “facts” to support his xenophobic agenda and force Apple to link its podcast service to his message.

            1. Brian Williams (NBC) and Dan Rather (CBS) come into mind…

              And speaking of this, I recall an article not too long ago where Bill Clinton was pining for the days of CBS, NBC, and ABC, where the views were the same.

              Isn’t it interesting how these ‘champions’ of diversity hate diversity of views.

          2. PS. Matal v. Tam was about government censorship, specifically disallowing a trademark because of alleged hate speech. It is completely inapplicable to private parties, who can discriminate against anything they dislike (absent an applicable anti-discrimination statute). “Censorship” is not a meaningful term when you are talking about whether a private party should be required to post links to obnoxious content. Apple does not “need to square away other content” because its terms of service give it complete discretion to determine whether it will promote specific content. To repeat yet again, the First Amendment does not apply to private parties.

            1. I used the case to point out what the courts i interpret as hate speech.

              And you’re wrong a out Apple being able to do whatever it wants to people’s content. They cannot act arbitrarily and escape legal remedies from the injured parties.

              Their decisions can be challenged.

      3. One problem here is that shortly after Apple made their decision, Youtube joined in. I think Facebook was first to attack Alex Jones’s content.

        So in one gesture, FaceBook has helped to define hate speech as “Anything with content by Alex Jones.” Riiiiiiight. Talk about slippery slope.

        So I guess all of these Net Neutrality, equal access to information people, are really only ok with equal access to information they deem appropriate.

    2. “The First Amendment wasn’t drafted to protect the rights of people we want to hear, but rather to protect the rights of those we don’t. We are now at the very top of the slippery slope. This won’t end well.”

      “Whether you hate Alex Jones is beside the point. Do you love the fact a handful of tech monopolists have the power to simultaneously purge him from the internet?”

      “4 big tech firms all banned Infowars within 12 hours of each other.

      This suggests collusion and it PROVES that their terms of service are all arbitrary and bullshit.

      Incredible.”

  2. Turn up the critical thinking a bit. “Hate Speech” is a bromide…no one likes it and seemingly is used as a “slam-dunk “explanation/justification.” The real question/issue relates to speech that “offends” and, or “divides”….which is the heart of the matter and much more complicated and involves detail and nuance. The rap tracks posted on a previous thread and offered at appledotcom doesn’t fit within your word use, or “offensive?” If no, please enlighten.

      1. Agreed. People can also choose to do business elsewhere if Apple wants to be big brother regarding speech. Let people decide for themselves what to watch/listen to. This is PC BS.

          1. Come on Cynic. Do you really believe that is what jwp wrote?

            Media is and always has been about creating walled gardens. Inside these gardens, corporate profiteers make their own rules and herd the sheep to either willfully be sucked into the reality distortion field or they take the long approach of filling the government and regulatory agencies with puppets to establish tilted rules, legal monopolies, and special taxation arrangements. That is why cable “news” is all about personalities with canned narratives rather than objective reporting. That is why most of America has one broadband provider and one cable TV provider. That is why ATT is allowed to wield more media power by far than Ma Bell at its zenith. That is why Apple and Google are both tripping over each other to get you to subscribe to a limited catalog instead of having equal choices in a wide open marketplace.

            Funny how every fanboy cheers when their favorite corporations get away with bad behavior, but then whine loudly about forgotten principles when someone else plays the same dirty game. If Cook had a spine he would have already done a corporate inversion to definitively give America the middle finger. Instead limp wristed Cook is keeping a low profile, making illegal tax deals with Ireland, parking billions in foreign tax shelters, sucking the dicks of every Chinese official necessarily to keep the cheap near slave labor going. That’s what Apple represents today. It isn’t interested in making personal computing more fun and efficient. Profit is all that matters now.

      2. “There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and You Will Atone!

        Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.”

        And now Apple.

    1. 1st statement = correct.
      2nd statement; are you really sure? It seems presumptuous to me…esp since no law is being broken.

      The real question at the heart of the matter; is Apple being hypocritical? They have the legal right to act as they have, but is their position consistent, if/when applied to all media/info they enable on their portals?

      tincan: the issue isn’t what hill you want to be on today, but what if the hill You Want to be on tomorrow is deemed “offensive” by someone tomorrow. This IS a slippery slope–like it, or not.

  3. What these types of moves really say is that the listeners, readers or watchers are not smart enough to choose for themselves what they wish to hear, read or watch. Someone else (typically self-appointed) is smarter. It used to be that people ignored others who they disagreed with or disliked their content. I don’t watch or listen to infowars but that’s not the point. These companies also have the right to filter content as desired but the users can also push back. All left, right, and centric content should be allowed until direct, personal harm is threatened.

  4. The New York Times just hired a woman for their editorial page that self professes to hate white people, and somehow thats ok.. and I doubt Apple is going to censor the NYT any time soon.

    1. Apple has the right to not allow their facilities to be used for the transmission of information they find inflammatory or hateful like reporting that Pres. Obama had Antonin Scalia murdered (with nothing resembling evidence) and that he was going after Clarence Thomas next, or that multiple school shootings were “false flag” operations with “child crisis actors,” that Hillary Clinton is a witch complicit having Dallas Police shot, and that a “demonic high-tech tyranny” formed by satanist elites who manufacture economic and health crises, are using selective breeding to create a supreme race.

      Having a commentator who admits to prejudice isn’t even in the same ballpark as giving this flame-throwing nutter access to millions more eyeballs.

      But I’ll agree that as outlets like facebook, YouTube and Apple become the primary media for most people’s info consumption, the right to free speech and private media transmission do collide somewhere.

  5. Alex Jones is a little too much for me, but this trend of large companies and social media platforms censoring speech they don’t agree with is disturbing.

  6. MDN, I believe that your Take on this topic is a bit simplistic. Just because a sharp dividing line may not exist between “right” and “wrong” does not mean that no one should make an effort to deal with the issue. Furthermore, as you point out, Apple is simply removing InfoWars from their podcast link database, not the podcasts themselves. Jones is free to continue peddling his wares across the internet to Apple users and users of other devices, alike.

    In addition, there is a downside to allowing our internet sources to fill up with garbage. It makes the quality content harder to find. The garbage content also has the potential to adversely influence the young, gullible, and/or mentally unbalanced people who come across it.

    I will not argue that culling content is not a potentially dangerous or slippery slope, because it is. But we also have to consider these actions in the greater context of the internet. Jones is not being censored or suppressed. He is simply being denied support on an Apple platform for which he is violating the rules. Consider the implications if Apple fails to take this action – could Apple then be judged as supporting Jones’ content? Would Apple then be in an even weaker position to eliminate links to other content.

    I agree that Apple needs to develop and refine its policies. But I do not agree that Apple should avoid taking any action and leaving it up to everyone else. That policy really hasn’t worked that well on the MDN forum, after all. Your hit and miss suppression of posts and post sources is rather pitiful.

    1. it’s the contradiction within the guise of health and fairness.

      How to you justify/explain Apple’s giving “ok” to the rap garbage in light of A Jones removal?

      You have to be a verbal magician to say there’s not a contradiction.

      King Mel; change the players (muscians, artists, opiners) and your argument could serve anyone’s position. That’s not consistent with a good argument…seeing you are justifying Apple’s choice. One man’s garbage is another person’s….

      1. I’m not sure all of this right-wing censorship by leftists at Google, FB, Twitter, Apple, et all is going to matter. They’ll still exist on the web and people will find these sites and info in other ways.
        Wouldn’t be surprised if another FB or twitter type company comes online that doesn’t ban right-wing views.

        1. They may exist on their own websites, but that means they must pay their own hosting fees. Fees paid by ads, donations or subscriptions, but at least that’s money wasted by their own true believers, not Apple (or FB/Google/Twitter).

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