Enlarge /. InfoWars' Alex Jones speaks to reporters outside a hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the use of social media platforms by foreign influence operations on Capitol Hill on September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
On Friday, Google removed Infowars' Android app from the Play Store, wiping out one of the last strongholds of infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Dismantling followed immediately after a video released and viewed by Wired in the Infowars app last week, in which Jones denied the need for social detachment, protection, and quarantine measures to slow the spread of the novel corona virus.
Google has confirmed to Wired that the app was removed on Friday. According to the measurement data published by Google Play, the app had more than 100,000 downloads and was rated "E10 +", which means safe for all users from the age of 10. The Infowars app sold products such as supplements and protein powder, broadcast the Alex Jones Show live, and published videos and articles by Jones and others.
"Fighting misinformation on the Play Store is a top priority for the team more than ever," a Google spokesman told Wired. "If we find apps that violate the Play guidelines by spreading misleading or harmful information, we will remove them from the store."
Alex Jones and Infowars did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the video in question, Jones said that "everyone dies under the new world order, except maybe a tenth of a percent who believe they will merge with machines and have done business with this interdimensional thing that gave them all the technology. .. You can't make a deal with these extraterrestrials, OK the Bible tells you about and that you'll ever come from the planet. "Elsewhere in the video, Jones claims that there are natural antivirals to treat the novel corona virus.
Google is far from the first technology giant to block or ban Infowars content. In fact, YouTube, owned by Google, blocked the Alex Jones Channel in August 2018 after critics increased pressure that platforms should enforce their policies against hate speech. Facebook acted on several Jones-operated sites the same day, as did Twitter with Infowars-related accounts the following month. Facebook introduced a complete ban on Alex Jones and Infowars content on all platforms in May 2019. Apple's iOS App Store, Google Play's main competitor, banned the Infowars app more than a year ago in late summer 2018.
After all the mainstream bans, Jones and his supporters have repeatedly claimed that blocking Infowars and Jones' content only makes it more widespread and popular. However, research shows that so-called "deplatforming" actions effectively reduce the spread of hate speech, misinformation and conspiracy theories. The bigger question is why Google has waited so long to take action against Infowars since its peer organizations did so a year and a half ago.
Technical services and social networks have long touted their role as defenders of freedom of speech. But rampant abuse, misinformation, and coordinated disinformation campaigns conducted by nation states on the platforms have brought the industry to a new understanding of its role in monitoring violent and dangerous content in recent years. The industry has also made targeted efforts to combat misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks. A joint statement from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube last week said that companies are committed to "keeping millions of people connected while sharing fraud and misinformation about the virus." fight".
Jones has also received other public setbacks for his claims about the spread and treatment of COVID-19. Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James sent him an injunction because she said in videos and on the Infowars website that his DNA Force Plus supplements, Superblue toothpaste, and SilverSol gargle could protect or treat the novel corona virus .
"With the corona virus continuing to pose a serious public health risk, Alex Jones spewed out lies and benefited from New Yorkers' fears," Attorney General James said in a statement. "Not only did Mr. Jones' public platform give him a microphone to shout inflammatory rhetoric, but his latest misunderstandings are incredibly dangerous and pose a serious threat to the public health of New Yorkers and individuals across the country."
Apparently in response, Infowars lists a disclaimer alongside these products, emphasizing that they do not cure, treat, prevent, or alleviate diseases, including COVID-19.
Jones was not only blocked on Google Play, but also had a tough week in other areas. On Wednesday, he lost an appeal against his allegations of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shootings. Jones has to pay $ 20,000 more in legal fees, along with the $ 150,000 he owes, and the case has not even been resolved brought to justice.
Jones could make changes and try to resubmit the Infowars app to the Play Store. Given that so many other major tech platforms have permanently blocked their content, the app review process could prove difficult.
This story originally appeared on wired.com.