ACLU: Apple’s ban of Alex Jones and Infowars could set dangerous social media precedent

“Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) speech, privacy and technology project, warned Monday that bans against Alex Jones and Infowars could set a dangerous precedent,” Megan Keller reports for The Hill. “Wizner told HuffPost that the hate speech policies many social media companies cited when they banned Jones can be ‘misused and abused.'”

“Earlier this month, Jones’s content was pulled from Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Vimeo for violating policies related to hate speech,” Keller reports. “He was later hit with a temporary suspension by Twitter as well.”

“Wizner said companies had a constitutional right to regulate speech on their platforms, but added that hate speech ‘turns out to be an extremely subjective term,'” Keller reports. “In particular, Wizner told HuffPost that he is worried about massive private companies holding the power to define that ambiguous category… President Trump has also expressed his own concerns about platforms’ attempts to police content. On Monday, he told Reuters that it is ‘dangerous’ for Facebook and Twitter to limit who can and cannot speak on their platforms.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yup.

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.MacDailyNews, August 6, 2018

Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman. — Louis D. Brandeis

“Hate speech” too often means, “I hate your speech, so I’m going to try to shut you up.”MacDailyNews, August 8, 2018

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

President Trump blasts social media ‘censorship’ – August 18, 2018
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: I ‘fully admit’ our bias is ‘more left-leaning’ – August 20, 2018
Twitter bans Alex Jones from posting on Twitter for seven days – August 15, 2018
Apple is monitoring Alex Jones’ Infowars app for content violations as it becomes 3rd-most downloaded app this week – August 9, 2018
Alex Jones: Infowars has racked up 5.6 million new subscribers in the past 48 hours – August 8, 2018
Tim Cook sends Mark Zuckerberg, YouTube, and Spotify scrambling over Infowars’ Alex Jones – August 8, 2018
Jack Dorsey explains why Twitter isn’t banning Alex Jones and Infowars – August 8, 2018
Infowars’ Alex Jones blasts Apple, Google, others; warns on internet censorship – August 7, 2018
Apple’s ‘Infowars’ move thrusts tech giant into the debate over censoring content on internet platforms – August 6, 2018
Apple removes most of Alex Jones’ Infowars podcasts from iTunes Store – August 6, 2018


  1. Companies are allowed terms of service (TOS) and to expel those who do not follow the TOS. Apple has a TOS that Infowars did not follow. Infowars has a TOS and they probably deal with those that violated it in a way they see fit.

    MDN interestingly enough does not have a clearly laid out TOS so basically they can do what they want with the posts, when they want, for whatever reason.

    1. Yes, Terms of Service allows for legal censorship of alternative voices. Funny, no comment on the ACLU position that is far more important than a defense of bad tech behavior …

      1. Tell me legal obligation a business not run by the government had to provide a platform for someone’s views they find repugnant? They don’t and that doesn’t matter is the views are left, right, up, down, insane, sane or whatever.

        You don’t like the rules I set up for the platform I own/run? Good, go somewhere else.

        1. Great. So your electric company finds your views on the way they generate electricity to be “repugnant.” So they deny you access to power? This is the problem with liberal/libertarians. Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. SOME regulation is necessary, especially when one or a few companies control access to a product or service that everyone uses or needs. Telling people to “create their own” simply is not practical. The monopolistic social media companies, like all such companies, need to be regulated by the government and people given access to the courts to redress unfair treatment. Just like businesses are forbidden by law from discriminating based on race, they should also be forbidden for discriminating based on political views. Let all views be heard — on all monopolistic platforms — and let the marketplace sort them out. In this case, the ACLU is right. Tomorrow it could be you.

    2. InfoWars’ TOS as it relates to comments:

      “You will not post anything libelous, defamatory, harmful, threatening, harassing, abusive, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, or otherwise illegal.
      “You will not make threats to other users or people not associated with the site.
      “If you violate these rules, your comment(s) and/or user name will be deleted.”

      1. @So:

        Why then aren’t all the celebrities, MSNBC anchors, and other people who have said they hope someone kills Trump not had their Twitter and Facebook accounts deleted?

        Because it’s censorship based on hypocrisy.

    3. Utter hypocrisy, MDN. You moderate your forums. You have denied posts and removed posts for sometimes (often) arbitrary reasons far short of hate speech or calls to violence. Practice what you preach, or shut up about it.

      1. My feeling is that they have shut up about it since I don’t see this being posted anymore.

        “Suffice to say, if you’re an off-topic poster or just issuing ad hominem attacks, you will be moderated and your posts will be removed. If you continue, you will be banned and your screen name will become unusable, so you’ll be forfeiting your identity, too.”

        I think everyone knows who the rampant ad hominem attacker is at MDN now that botty’s no longer around.

  2. The ACLU returning to their roots is certainly welcome. The ambiguity of tech companies defining and policing hate speech is indeed troubling and a slippery slope. Protecting unpopular speech is the backbone of the First Amendment. If they discontinue censorship and simply issue a disclaimer which is routinely done by radio, TV and newspaper media companies would help to clarify positions, rather than silence alternative voices …

    1. Excellent point. Just add a disclaimer. I am so angry at Apple. I feel totally betrayed. They led the way censoring Jones (who I never listened to or watched). Now, with that decision, to own an Apple product is to make a political statement. I was a SURE Apple customer, and so was my family. Now, not. Just met with a friend today, long-time Apple iPhone user, and after our meeting, HE is now considering Samsung. Love the new Note 9. We’ll see.

    1. I went to my local AMC theater this past weekend, and didn’t see any X-rated movies in the Cineplex! Why are they allowed to censor those movies! We need government intervention so they are forced to carry any movie that gets released, regardless of popularity or “appropriateness”!

      I mean, just because they bought the land, and they built the building, and they pay for the employees, and they equipped all of their fairly nice theaters with quality video and audio equipment and comfy seats, that doesn’t give them the right to censor Mount Thrustmore!! It’s not like they are some business trying to maximize profits by showing stuff that’s likely to fill most of those seats!


        1. No, the cake baker is not allowed to discriminate based on race, gender, sexuality, etc. The cake baker can do what he wants as long as he is not discriminating against people. He could say I hate the color pink and I don’t use that color in any cakes, that’s fine. He’ll lose a lot of business but he’s allowed to do that. What he’s not allowed to do is say I hate gay people so if I find out you are gay I won’t bake you a cake. That is discrimination and is breaking the law.

          1. W R O N G.

            Th June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that a florist had violated a gay couple’s civil rights by refusing service.

            The U.S. Supreme Court in July absolved a Colorado baker of discrimination for refusing to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, ruling that the state exhibited “religious hostility” against him.

  3. Oh boo hoo ACLU. This is where liberals shoot themselves in their own foot time after time. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that people can’t control their own property. Banned hate mongers can build their own network and gather their rabble there instead of relying on somebody else’s work. Isn’t that the American work ethic? If Twitter one day decides the president has violated their terms of service and bans him, what then? He’s the President he’s got the entire government to facilitate his ramblings.

  4. For that we have laws, courts and judges. Not a bunch new rich socialists from Silicon Valley to censure what are against their “correctness” thinking. What Apple and lefties gang are doing is an atempt to subvert the First Ammendment. This is not a preference or piviiegies of their biased company. Communist China and Putin wouldn’t do better.

  5. There will come a point in the future where conservatives control the social media outlets. Then liberal ideas can be shut down on those outlets. If that sounds agreeable to you, then you agree that we should ignore the conSnowflakes and let private businesses do what they want with their resources.

    Not too long ago, instead of complaining that it was too hard to win statewide office and cry to the government for relief, conservatives worked within the system to CONTROL the system. Instead of a temporary band aid with the risk of being rolled back, there is a now solid and long lasting control of government at all levels by conservatives. It can happen in social media and everywhere, you just have to stop expending energy whining about every little thing that mildly annoys you and focus on the big picture. Liberals lost because it got to a point where SO many tiny inconsequential things annoyed them, they had their heads down stamping on ants and never saw the anvil dropping from above.

    1. I believe AM radio tried this so many years ago. The Libs were bitching about Rush having way too big of an audience with 700 radio stations broadcasting his show.

      So they got some Lib radio guys and started an alternative to Rush’s show on the radio. I believe it lasted only a year or less. Poor ratings. No one wanted to listen to it.

  6. I strongly disagree with Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Vimeo, Google, et ali, being the arbiters for determining what is offensive, not offensive, truth, or falsity. Not adhering to their terms of services is a different issue.

    1. I agree with them because once conservatives control them, and they will, it will be a LOT easier to shut down liberal voices. Or, do you WANT conservative private business forced to provide equal access to liberal views?

      1. Guess you missed what the article is about.

        “Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) speech, privacy and technology project, warned Monday that bans against Alex Jones and Infowars could set a dangerous precedent,” Megan Keller reports for The Hill. “Wizner told HuffPost that the hate speech policies many social media companies cited when they banned Jones can be ‘misused and abused.’”

        In short: “dangerous precedent” and “misused and abused.”

        Not your acceptance of present day censorship by the left and future fear of censorship by the right …

        1. “he is worried about massive private companies [once they’re controlled by conservatives] holding the power to define that ambiguous category”

          The ACLU is afraid of the day that they KNOW is coming where conservatives will own or control the social media apparatus. Their “dangerous precedent” is understanding that conservatives in control of conservative PRIVATE businesses will be able to shutdown any and all communications the ACLU may want to put out there in the future and THEY ARE RIGHT.

          And there isn’t future “fear” of censorship from the right. There is censorship by the right, RIGHT now. How many liberal news shows does Fox do? How many liberal points of view does InfoWars promote? How many liberal talking points are presented on Rush’s show? You can BET that once the right owns the method of distribution that liberal views are going to be shut down, and it TOTALLY in the right of ANY private company to do so. Unless you’re in favor of some “fairness doctrine”.

          1. Right now over 95% of the media is liberal, same with colleges, education in general, Hollywood, award shows turning liberal activist speeches, celebrities to name a few.

            You fear losing control? May it come sooner than later …

            1. There was a time when there were NO Republican trifectas (Governorship and both house of local government) in any state. There was a time the REPUBLICANS thought Republicans would ALWAYS be in the minority in the US Senate and the House. There was a time when there was ZERO conservative representation in Hollywood. All that has changed and will continue to change.

              You’re from an old era where you feel Conservatives will always play second fiddle, so that’s how you see the world. Actually, I think you’re just confused if you think I fear losing control, conservatives are gaining control everywhere. 🙂

  7. Alex Jones is free to have his own website, newsletter, etc. if FB doesn’t want him on their site it seems fair. Will the ACLU argue that the WSJ op ed page feature Jane Fonda?

  8. Maybe it’s time for another company to step up. Seems our marketplace may have a vacancy for a tech giant that isn’t afraid of free speech. On the other hand, a company like that would need to keep a bevy of lawyers on hand 24/7 to deal with all the hurt feelings lawsuits that would ensue from actual free speech. Hmmmm 🙂

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.