After weeks of equivocation, Twitter permanently suspended the accounts of Infowars and its founder Alex Jones on Thursday, following similar moves by other large tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify. The decision came after a series of provocations from Jones that Twitter deemed in violation of its "abusive behavior" rules.
The incident that inspired Twitter to action appears to have been a series of tweets containing a nine-minute Periscope video of Jones and his camera operators confronting CNN reporter Oliver Darcy. In the video, Jones lambastes Darcy as "the equivalent of like the Hitler Youth" and accuses him of "smiling like a possum that crawled out of the rear end of a dead cow."
While many of Silicon Valley's largest platforms moved quickly last month to remove Jones' content under various hate speech guidelines, Twitter allowed him to remain.
That changed Thursday with Twitter's permanent suspension. The suspension applies to both @realAlexJones and @Infowars, but Twitter confirmed that Jones will be prevented from personally registering or using any other Twitter accounts in the future. Should Jones use a preexisting account to tweet, that account would also be suspended. A spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed News that the decision came after an influx of reports regarding Jones' recent tweets. Here's the full statement from Twitter:
Today, we permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infowars from Twitter and Periscope. We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ previous violations.
As we continue to increase transparency around our Rules and enforcement actions, we wanted to be open about this action given the broad interest in this case. We do not typically comment on enforcement actions we take against individual accounts, for their privacy.
We will continue to evaluate reports we receive regarding other accounts potentially associated with @realalexjones or @infowars and will take action if content that violates our Rules is reported or if other accounts are utilized in an attempt to circumvent their ban.
Jones has been flirting with a Twitter suspension for the better part of the last month, culminating in a one-week "time-out" in late August. After Facebook, YouTube, and others took action against Jones, CNN provided the Twitter with seven examples of Jones’ tweets that appeared to be in clear violation of the platform's rules. Rather than take punitive action against Jones, Twitter simply required Jones to delete the offending tweets. Five days later, when reporters presented Twitter with an Infowars tweet promoting a Periscope video of Jones telling his listeners to get their "battle rifles" ready, Twitter again asked Jones to delete the tweet and gave him another "time-out."
Despite harsh scrutiny, Twitter's top executives have publicly defended their handling of Jones' repeated policy violations. In a late August interview with BuzzFeed News, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's general counsel, and Del Harvey, the company's vice president of trust and safety, argued that the decision to allow Jones to remain on Twitter was about consistency, rather than ad hoc enforcement. “We're trying to build trust and the more that we can do that through transparency, consistent enforcement, iterating," Harvey explained. "Like, this is what we're changing, this is why we're changing it, this is how." Gadde added that, before mid-August, the company had not received reports that Jones or Infowars had violated its rules.
In the aftermath of his "time-out," Jones launched an all-out offensive against what he claims is a Silicon Valley–led censorship campaign, decrying companies like Facebook and Google as globalist oppressors. On Wednesday, Jones brought that offensive to Washington, DC, where he attended this week's congressional hearings with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
The Infowars founder stalked the halls of Congress, trying to attract the attention of anyone who would give him time. He shouted “Infowars.com” behind television reporters taping their segments; he walked in and out of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with Dorsey and Sandberg, trailed at one point by far-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. He confronted Sen. Marco Rubio, calling him “a frat boy.”
Jones is arguably one of Twitter's highest-profile suspensions, though it has removed pro-Trump pundits and trolls in the past. In May 2015, Twitter banned Chuck Johnson, a former Breitbart reporter who owns the crowdsourced investigations site WeSearchr, after he asked for donations to help "take out" civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson. (Johnson argues the statement was out of context.) And in July 2016, Twitter permanently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos for leading a tweeted harassment campaign against Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones.
Though Jones had fewer followers on the social network than on platforms like YouTube, Twitter's popularity among the press makes it a vital platform for many like him. As one of the few true crossover points between traditional news gatherers and newer, pro-Trump media outlets, Twitter provides characters like Jones quick and easy access to a broader audience — including his biggest foil: the mainstream media.