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Apple Removes Infowars from Podcast Directory (wsj.com)
223 points by uptown 77 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 260 comments



All: there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of intellectual gratification happening in these threads, but please try at least to avoid things like gratuitous inflammation, generic politics, and all such low-information flameage. Those things do actual damage to the community, and for what?


I agree with the comments that it's their store and they can do what they want with it, and Jones actively uses his platform to bully individuals so I'm not disappointed to see it diminished.

That said, the trend of centralization of Podcasts worries me a bit. Podcasts were one of the few real success stories of an open syndication format that allowed an ecosystem of podcast apps to flourish. I've noticed a trend where podcasts make it hard to find the RSS URL or even make it hidden and require you subscribe on the major platforms. Let's not turn podcasting into the same walled garden we have for every other aspect of syndicated content!


The fact that private stores can do what they want does not mean that they should do what they want or that consumers shouldn't demand otherwise. More generally, not all bad behavior is or should be illegal. The fact that the first amendment only legally applies to the government does not mean that free speech as a concept doesn't have moral force on other organizations.

For instance, we expect universities to act as neutral debate platforms for all sorts of views that are not endorsed by the university administration. When they fail to do this, they are not legally penalized (modulo constraints from accepting government funding), but we (should) lower their public esteem. Newspapers and online media companies like Apple and Facebook could and should be held to a similar standard by the public, although in practice they are unfortunately given more latitude.


""Debate"" needs to have a minimum legitimacy requirement to be taken seriously. You can't just make up a string of provably false stuff and use it as a pretext for harassment, Sandy Hook passim.


Sure, by the private individual. The problem is many things that were major moments in world history didn't pass the ruling-class's "minimum legitimacy requirement" at the time. Top-of-my-head examples: the Magna Carta, the Protestant Reformation, Indian Independence, anybody else's independence, Snowden, etc.


The Magna Carta is literally an agreement among the ruling class.

By "legitimacy" I don't mean that people agree with the conclusion being expressed, but that people agree it's at least an attempt at a structured argument based on actual facts. The 95 Theses were complaints against real injustices, not a set of fabricated smears.

Colonial independences generally were discussable - and discussed - at the time and in advance of their happening.


> The Magna Carta is literally an agreement among the ruling class.

Not in the way you're thinking. This is at the time when the King had absolute or near absolute authority. King John was the ruling class. While it was the English nobility that opposed the king, they did so (1) at great risk to their own safety, and (2) as the only ones in a position to do so. Certainly no serf could have accomplished this -- they would have been killed.

Second sentence of the (excellent) Wikipedia article about it:

> First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta


> the King had absolute or near absolute authority. King John was the ruling class.

In theory, perhaps. But the barons could and did challenge the King with a degree of success. The king did not have a practical monopoly on the use of force. So the description of Magna Carta as an 'agreement among the ruling class' seems reasonable.


> but that people agree it's at least an attempt at a structured argument based on actual facts

This is far easier said than done. Just for starters, which "people" get to decide, and that's not even getting into the messy details at analyzing any arguments or facts.


We know who gets to decide - the owners of the communications platform and those who influence them. If Apple wanted to be more inclusive in the decision making, they could choose to do so.


More precisely:

We know who gets to decide - the owners of the communications platform and those who influence them, under current democratic legislation, which is completely subject to change according to the will of the citizens of a democratic country.

It's interesting how easy it is to observe stereotypical right-wing pedantically technical justification behaviors be adopted by the left (feel free to correct me if my assumption is wrong) as the topic of specific discussion moves around various dimensions of reality.


What is the major moment in this Infowars topic?


Step back and see the bigger picture. I think most of us think Infowars is a weird nuisance. But I was responding to the claim that political opinion should have to meet a pre-approved "minimum legitimacy requirement". If this is normalized, no other, actually important issue will be able to gain traction.


It’s either the targeted harassment campaigns against parents who’ve lost children, or the attempts to push the idea that liberals are planning a civil war and they need to be violently resisted. It may sound like he’s trying to incite violence but that’s just because you haven’t stepped back and appreciated the larger picture.


and yet all those things happened, in many cases without having to extend free speech to insane degrees.


No, there doesn't need to be an minimum reasonableness to speech for it to be protected. The ravings of a lunatic are and should be protected. The issue of where to draw the line between speech/persuasion/debate and harassment/threats/shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theatre is an important thorny one, but it is completely separate from the quality or reasonableness of legitimacy of the speech.

I don't know anything about the facts of the case at hand. I am responding to the argument, made above and many place in this thread, that the only sorts of protections on free speech are legal ones, and that in particular they don't apply to legal actions taken individuals or private organizations.


It's not like Apple is deleting his media. Apple is deleting the pointers, as they don't want to be associated with him (which is perfectly reasonable - I wouldn't want that either).

His right to free speech is not infringed. He is still free to host the RSS feed and the media files however he sees fit.


We all acknowledge that it's a violation of the first amendment if the government simply makes it hard to access speech even if it's still technically available. The government can't order Google to stop indexing your website even if they allow your website to remain online.

Plenty of people here have argued for the gravely mistaken position that free speech protections should only apply to the government, but I've never heard anyone argue that private individuals and organizations are morally bound to protect free speech in certain circumstances but this only applies if they are completely wiping out the speech rather than just making it difficult to access. I don't understand why that would be the case.


The key word in your argument is 'morally'. What's moral is fluid and varies from person to person. I think it's perfectly legitimate to suppress free speech locally when you protect it globally - for example, in the case of hate speech that demands free speech of certain groups to be globally suppressed.


wouldn't it infringe on Apple's free speech to force them to keep the pointers? they're making a political statement by removing them


More generally, not all bad behavior is or should be illegal.

Not all bad behaviors are illegal but calling for active, illegal harassment of an individual, which other people carry out, is, in fact, illegal and given this is often Jones' modus operandi, his activities are illegal and his overall strategy has involved staying one step ahead of lawsuits.


Has he done that? Jones is an asshole, I think the Sandy Hook thing was awful (and could be constituted as harassing them himself) but I haven't heard of him 'calling for active, illegal harassment of an individual' before. Not saying he wouldn't do that, it's just that the ban doesn't mention this and I haven't heard of it.


Sounds like a job for the courts. I don't think any in this thread is remotely informed about the facts of the case.


Well, when a company is looking at someone using their platform for a activities that look blatantly illegal, it's common for them to preemptively ban them. These platforms have no obligation to wait for a court ruling.

In case of Jones, He blatantly defamed the parents of Sandy Hook victims in a fashion that had considerable negative consequences for the parents due to constant harassment by Jones followers.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/us/politics/alex-jones-de...


I agree this would be a reasonable response if this were the actual justification. But in fact, all the coverage I've seen of this cites his hate speech as the justification, not illegal activity.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/lifestyle/2018/08/apple-pulls...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/06/apple-rem...

Hate speech is correctly generally protected by the first amendment, and it should likewise be protected as free speech by private parties.


Hate speech is correctly generally protected by the first amendment, and it should likewise be protected as free speech by private parties.

Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. It is correct that something being hate speech by itself not sufficient cause for it to lose first amendment protections. But hate speech can loose first amendment protections for all the reasons other speech can; commercial speech, fighting-words and liable/slander included.

And of course, the first amendment doesn't require Apple or Facebook to host anyone so them banning first amendment protected hate speech is not a problem by itself, which is to say the second part of your claim isn't justified.

I mean, Jones' vicious rants are hate speech, slander, and falsehoods. They are intended to damage innocent, a-political, private individuals and have indeed damaged a-political, innocent private individuals. Which reason a company actually gives to ban Jones probably involves a PR calculation ("hate speech" sounds best) but whatever the given reason, I can't see this as unjustified.


> It is correct that something being hate speech by itself not sufficient cause for it to lose first amendment protections....

"Hate speech is correctly generally protected by the first amendment" obviously does not mean "all hate speech is protected regardless of other properties it may have". That's the entire point of the word "generally". The point is that Apple and others are using "hate speech" alone as the justification.

> the first amendment doesn't require Apple or Facebook to host anyone so them banning first amendment protected hate speech is not a problem by itself, which is to say the second part of your claim isn't justified.

I have explained at least half a dozen places in this thread why it's a mistake to think there's no moral imperative for private individuals and organizations free speech just because the first amendment applies only to the government. I didn't want to repeat myself, so I explicitly acknowledged in the comment you're replying to that it is an additional moral claim. Your comment just states your disagreement without actually arguing for it, or engaging with any of the arguments I have given elsewhere.


I have explained at least half a dozen places in this thread why it's a mistake to think there's no moral imperative for private individuals and organizations free speech just because the first amendment applies only to the government.

There is a moral imperative for private organizations to protect open expression in fashion appropriate to their position the national and world media "sphere" (Google suppressing a search is distinct from Apple not selling a tune is distinct from Youtube not hosting a video). None of them are identical to a government so none of them have imperatives identical to a government.

It's worth noting also that Facebook and others are transnational entities - hate speech is not protected speech in Europe, for example.


> None of them are identical to a government so none of them have imperatives identical to a government.

I didnt claim they were identical and I have in fact already given an example elsewhere in this thread for where they are different. If you want to argue for a particular difference in this case, do so. But just pointing out that I haven't fully anticipated and defeated to all possible counterarguments in a single 100-word HN comment is not constructive.


Well, my most recent argument above was explaining the logic behind my earlier claims about what was appropriate for the various platforms that recently banned Jones (I've been assuming hn readers connect the dots). I don't think Facebook, youtube or Apple have made Infowars in any way impossible to find or learn about - indeed, they've given him lots of publicity which no doubt allows many to discover his hateful ideas, still freely available on his website (still indexed by Google).

The various media platforms have, however, strongly interfered with his ability to profit from his lies, slander and malice and appropriately so. One can hope that a despicable thug like Jones winds-up in with his commercial empire collapsing and in state of destitution but unfortunately, he will mostly likely just slow shrink away.


Earlier you argued that Apple et al were justified in banning Jones because he was using the platform to conduct illegal activity (albeit for which he has not yet been convicted). I agreed this would be a plausible justification, it's just not the one they actually cite. But now it sounds like you're saying they are justified in banning him because, although it may actually increases the spread of his message (thereby, presumably, increasing his ability to lead harassment in the short-term), it deprives him of the ability to profit from it. However, my understanding is that, at least with regard to first-amendment government constraints, speech doesn't become less protected just because it's intertwined with profit-making activity. (Of course, for-profit activities may introduce additional considerations that must be balanced against free speech, but the mere existence of profit does not reduce protection.) I don't see why that should be different when considering the free-speech duties of private individuals and companies vs. the government.


> More generally, not all bad behavior is or should be illegal.

Apple hasn't said (that I know of) that Infowars speech is illegal. Merely that they want no part of it.

>The fact that the first amendment only legally applies to the government does not mean that free speech as a concept doesn't have moral force on other organizations.

Morals differ between organizations and individuals (just ask any church, the supposed arbiters of morals). Morals are relative to groups and individuals because they are created without/despite the input of other groups and individuals. If there were an absolute moral authority (which would obviate the need for other sets of morals) then perhaps this might be different.

All of this to say: good riddance to bad rubbish. His followers may feel differently, but to Hell with them, too.


> Apple hasn't said (that I know of) that Infowars speech is illegal. Merely that they want no part of it.

You misunderstand. The person I was responding to was equating the legality of Apple's suppression or speech with the acceptability/morality of that suppression. We weren't discussing the legality of Infowars' speech.

> Morals differ between organizations and individuals

People believe different things about empirical facts, but we don't think those difference of opinion mean there isn't a fact-of-the-matter which is separate from those opinions.

If you want to argue for moral relativism you need to argue for the non-existence of moral facts, which is fine and a reasonably popular position among some philosophers. But it's hard to convince anyone to listen to any of your arguments about what should be done, in this case or any other, if you admit it's just a personal opinion (like a preference for strawberries over blueberries) and you don't actually think they have any moral imperative to listen to you.


> The person I was responding to was equating the legality of Apple's speech suppression with it's acceptability. We weren't discussing the legality of Infowars' speech.

Well, then, to clarify on my part, I believe it's perfectly acceptable for Apple to say they want no part in some form of speech. It's perfectly legal since the American 1st amendment only binds the government. Apple really only has the power that it has convinced consumers and shareholders to willingly given it (begrudgingly or not), aside from whatever power is granted by incorporation.

I don't have to agree with their decision (in this case, I do). If they were to drop some musical artist I really like (say, Peter Gabriel) I would probably feel differently, but that wouldn't make me any more right, just mad.


> It's perfectly legal since the American 1st amendment only binds the government.

Again: the fact that something is legal doesn't make it moral.

> I believe it's perfectly acceptable for Apple to say they want no part in some form of speech.

You haven't actually engaged with my argument about the morality of this action, just stated you believe the opposite.


the consensus thus far has been any speech leading to harm/death is not allowed/legal (i.e. screaming FIRE in a theater). This is no different, we can sit here all day and try to assess who should be in charge but there is clear evidence InfoWars is leading to armed morons showing up in pizza places and/or harassing parents of school shooting victims. If this case was more nuanced i.e. suppressing political ideology i could see your point, but this is a pretty clear cut case of hate speech leading to real consequences


> any speech leading to harm/death is not allowed/legal

No, this is not where the line is drawn. In the case of first-amendment protection of free speech, the speech has to induce imminent lawless action

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imminent_lawless_action

Thus, hate speech and speech that advocates violent revolution is protected.


> we expect universities to act as neutral debate platforms for all sorts of views that are not endorsed by the university administration

Public universities. I wouldn't dream of asking the same thing of Liberty University. The difference being, the one is a branch of government, and the other is not.

Free speech is narrowly intended to be something that limits the government's ability to impose restrictions on non-government entities for good reason. Asking private organizations (e.g., Liberty University) to follow the same limitations would undercut free speech by preventing ones with a particular point of view (e.g., a conservative Christian one) from actually being able to express that point of view.

Now, if we all wanted to agree that Facebook needs to be granted common carrier status for publicly arguing with your family about politics, that would be different.


> Public universities.

Huh? Most universities in the US are private, including the large majority of the top ones that host controversial debates. (All the Ivys, Stanford, MIT, CalTech, etc.) These universities are held to rather high standard of neutrality even though it's not legally required for them to do so (modulo restrictions from government grants, which are empirically not the main drivers of their behavior with regard to free speech). They behave this way because the university professor and administrators believe the world is better for it, and because otherwise the public would lower their esteem as honorable places of learning (and good places for donations!).

> Free speech is narrowly intended to be something that limits the government's ability to impose restrictions on non-government entities for good reason

No! The First Amendment is intended to limit the government. Free speech is a much wider concept! If you don't understand why free speech is an idea that has important moral implications for individuals and private organizations, you should read "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mills, the classic canonical defense of this. It's only 100 pages and available free.

https://socialsciences.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/mill/liber...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Liberty


I am a Liberty University student. I ask them to be a neutral debate platform and they claim to be such. They also shutdown free speech on campus and do not permit open debate on topics that they disagree on. It is always kind of interesting. One day they talk about how important free speech is, the next they ban someone for his/her political views.

Honestly, I want Liberty to support open and honest debate. Otherwise, what is the point of having a university? I understand that their professors are going to be required to sign their statement of faith. Such is not required of the student and students of all faiths are welcome.


Freedom of Speech != Speech without Consequences.

I can say what I want at work but I can get fired for that speech. Same thing you can loss your advertisers and your platforms for the same speech.

I grew up in the last house in Bethel, CT before Newtown (Sand Hook), heck my mom went to elementary school in Sandy Hook. Friends of mine had children in the school. People don't know how crazy it was the first 6 months there.

The tension was HUGE that first two weeks with Westboro Church trying to get there to protest (I knew that the people in CT would do everything to keep them away). Then the conspiracy crazies got involved and it just was a mess.

Still today I still get people who ask if it really happened. Those poor parents are hounded still. Think the Flat Earthers going after astronauts and multiply it by 10.

Jones is absolutely responsibly for his speech. Sure he can say it but platforms don't have to allow it. Terrorist, Nazis and Infowars should break every platform's policies.


> Freedom of Speech != Speech without Consequences. I can say what I want at work but I can get fired for that speech.

You should only be fired if that speech directly interferes with the performance of that job, e.g., if the cashier says offensive thing to the customers or an employee tries to convince their coworkers to shirk their duties. Political opinions that are separate from an employee's job that the employee expresses on their own time should not be punished.

Free speech is about cordoning off a realm of ideas that is free from reprisals in meat space. If you don't understand why this is important, and applies to individuals contemplating economic reprisals just as much as to government incarceration, you should read "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mills, the classic canonical defense of this. It's only 100 pages and available free.

https://socialsciences.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/mill/liber...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Liberty

The question of whether businesses should refrain from firing employee with unpopular opinions because the businesses fear anti-free-speech punishment from their customers (e.g., a boycott of a grocery store because the shift manager is pro-choice) is complicated, but it is very similar to the sorts of moral trade-offs made in the personal sphere all the time: if a group of students are being mean to Alice for no good reason and they will shun me if I stay friends with her, am I morally bound to stay friends with her? Yes, there is a presumption that I should not punish Alice unjustly, but there is also a limit on the size of negative consequences I am morally bound to endure on behalf of Alice. Likewise, businesses generally ought to refrain from firing employees who tweet unpopular opinions for free speech reasons, but it is unreasonable to expect businesses to take unlimited economic losses on behalf of such employees due to anti-free-speech customers.


People are fired for racism all the time. You don’t disagree with that, do you?


And who gets to define "racism"? If I defend my company's policy of only accepting resumes from coding boot camp graduates if they're a woman, Black, or Latin is that racist or sexist? How about if I criticize these policies? I know plenty of people that would call the former racist and also a good number of people that would say the same of the latter.


The US government gets to define racism, if legal requirements to employ a precisely calibrated ratio of whites, women, blacks, and latinos are any guide. This is America, after all, and that’s what freedom means.


"Sure he can say it but platforms don't have to allow it. "

Yep, he has plenty of money to set up his own broadcast channels if he must. If nothing else, Jones can broadcast on shortwave. Which is probably a good place for him.


> or that consumers shouldn't demand otherwise

as a customer of Apple I'm delighted by this move.


My main peeve with this is Google Podcasts which still doesn't allow you to subscribe to an RSS podcast. It solely allows you to listen to podcasts which Google is granted permission to upload to their own servers. As a podcast owner, I'm not comfortable agreeing to Google's terms, and have opted not to participate. To which I sometimes get complaints.

I don't understand why Google refuses to accept standard podcasting convention and let users consume my RSS feed direct and download my show from the servers I've provided.

For iTunes, as a counter example, de-listing InfoWars will hurt their discoverability obviously, but their listeners can easily subscribe themselves manually in the iTunes client.


After Google Listen (and a long line of similar shutdowns -- Google Reader, Google Wave, GChat/Voice/Hangouts/Allo), why would you use Google Podcasts anyway?

I'm not affiliated in any way, but Pocket Casts has been running for years and is an excellent option on both iOS and Android. I know there are some other good options on Android as well, if Pockets Casts isn't your thing for some reason.


Personally, I don't use any of them, but the issue is that people who listen to my podcast do.


That's weird considering you submit the podcast as an RSS feed. I didn't know they uploaded the audio to their own servers.


I'm sure someone from Google will tell you it is to control the quality/experience. I remember back when I used iTunes that sometimes one podcast or another wouldn't download for a while, because their server was down or whatever, whereas most Google things it is reliably never the server's fault. Google would not be wrong to say it can ensure a better user experience if its providing the podcast over referring to another server which could very well be someone's Raspberry Pi.

But to be listed on Google Podcasts, they consume your RSS feed and upload it. The terms include the standard granting Google irrevocable worldwide royalty-free rights to your intellectual property and includes highlights like their ability to use your podcast content even if you remove it from your feed later.

Since most other podcast apps don't do anything but help others find your RSS feed, I've never had to agree to terms and prove my ownership to be listed anywhere else, Google's demand of IP rights seems unique in this space. I've actually found my podcast listed on all sorts of sites I've never heard of with no such terms required.


Sounds like AMP. "Google hosts it for performance reasons!"

I'm not too worried for myself since I plan to release it all in a Creative Commons album anyway, but I'll keep it in mind if I see someone talking up Google Podcasts.


Whenever i try sharing an episode with someone I end up searching that podcasts website for archive with unique episode urls. This is not optimal because it makes users load it up in a browser instead of player, but seems the only reliable way to share an episode. Otherwise the "share" link is app specific (i.e. itunes) or just takes a user to the podcast instead of individual episode. Seems like a lack of open standard to offer deep linking using "default" podcast player. also fuck InfoWars


The iTunes podcast directory still uses the original RSS feeds. You can use this bookmarklet to get the RSS feed from your browser https://github.com/djm/uncover-itunes-rss-bookmarklet


Thanks for sharing this! I was able to subscribe to a podcast with an otherwise-hidden RSS feed.


This is really useful. I'll try it in a couple minutes.


You can get them from https://podtail.com too.


RSS is still open. You can still host your RSS and your media. What Apple did is to make it harder to find. And that's it.


> Jones actively uses his platform to bully individuals

Do you have an example of what you mean?



Like the pizzagate conspiracy, or the targeting of sandy hook parents?


Anyone of average intelligence who spends 30-60 seconds listening to Alex Jones will quickly realize that Jones suffers from some kind of mental illness or personality disorder, and that there is nothing of interest or value to learn from his rants.

Those who ignore the obvious signs and still choose to listen to it do so for their own, identity-driven or emotional reasons. This is the same process that causes humans to rally behind demagogues of all kinds.

When uncensored, Jones' folly is obvious and can be easily evaluated and dismissed. But when it's censored, those inclined toward conspiracy theories will assume that Jones is speaking some kind of truth to power, etc.

So Apple's move strengthens Jones in all the worst ways and does a great disservice to American civil society. The only way to prevent dark ages beliefs is to shine light on them.


> The only way to prevent dark ages beliefs is to shine light on them.

This is the sort of principled belief I used to hold that I’m no longer sure holds up to scrutiny.

There's always been a fringe that was willing to believe anything. But how do you call something like Infowars “fringe” when it’s on the same “network” as NPR and CNN podcasts? Placement like that legitimizes Infowars. That “light shining” on Infowars was a spotlight.

You’re probably right that this will galvanize the true believers, but what was going to turn their beliefs around? The flipside is that this move may cauterize a growing infection.


[flagged]


Trying to put CNN on the same (low) level as InfoWars is disgusting and a deliberate misrepresentation of fact.


Good thing I didn't - read the very first sentence of the comment you're replying to. Then read the rest of it, which is about wanting specific consistently enforced ToS violation handling, regardless of where they're needed or the magnitude of the violation, or how much of an asshole they are.

Infowars are trash. CNN is trashy, but not as trashy as Infowars. I make that abuntantly clear.

I think you're smart enough to know that, so it seems as if you're deliberately misreading the comment in order to either get attention or deflect criticism of ToS violations you support. Which indeed is a disgusting and deliberate misrepresentation of fact.

From https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html:

> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Why does facebook need an excuse to remove something you describe as trash? Spreading trash on their platform reduces its value. Do you claim that spreading CNN on their platform ALSO reduces its value?


1. Because having a consistent set of rules ensures everyone follows them.

2. Yes, demonstrably false news reduces the value of Facebook. That anyone would think it doesn't illustrates the need for 1.


To avoid a flamewar about the parent of your comment, I think it's appropriate to interpret it as a broad observation about the decline in journalistic standards and the shift in focus of news organizations into content farms for like-minded people.


Apart from the obvious acting of Alex Jones, i put post-Trump CNN on the same level as Infowars. Jones definitely puts out less hysteria than CNN if you monitor both youtube channels.


> Good thing I didn't

You literally did.


> ... but what was going to turn their beliefs around?

Educating people about morally correct beliefs is a separate undertaking that is typically what members of the clergy undertake with worshipers. I don't think there is any need for such a role in secular society. If you disagree, don't just downvote this, explain what level of moral education and policing is appropriate in a free society.

> ...this move may cauterize a growing infection.

I understand the point you are making, but I would like to add that I think it's a bit dangerous to use nazi-style rhetoric like "infection" or "infestation" to describe people we oppose politically.


> explain what level of moral education and policing is appropriate in a free society.

The problem, as I currently perceive it, is not how society performs moral education or policing on adults, but rather how we teach critical thinking skills to children.

For a related example, there was an excellent article recently where someone visited a “flat earth” convention and interviewed various participants. What he found was that adherents didn’t exactly disbelieve in a globe; they were instead embracing rejection of factual authority. https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/looking-for-life-...

I don’t see Infowars types as those I “oppose politically.” Their beliefs are not merely “right-wing” — their worldview is simply craziness.

If I’m right that this is a problem of rubber-stamping students through graduation who are unable to think coherently, then "moral policing" is a post-facto treatment, and what’s really necessary is prevention. (These ideas are mostly spread through memes, for crying out loud; the term is literally defined as an infection.)

(I didn't downvote you, incidentally.)


Interesting thoughts.

I agree that students should learn critical thinking in school, but I'd argue that Alex Jones has not gained popularity by appealing to untrained minds, but by appealing to human emotional needs.

I take solace in the realization that humans are extraordinarily hypocritical. Consider the massive engagement numbers from Youporn in the most religious counties in the US. Belief has virtually nothing to do with action, so there is no reason to be concerned about anyone's beliefs.

People act for emotional reasons that are beneath the level of belief. Jones appeals to people for those reasons, and I fear that censoring him only strengthens the emotional meaning of his existence for his followers, and will motivate them to share his messages more actively now that the content isn't as easy to find by accident.


This comment makes several errors, the most severe of which is the category error of thinking Alex Jones, et. al. are about discussion and dialogue. He is not. He and his ilk are about weaponizing the norms of society to destroy society. They are at war, not having a discussion.

It is a fatal error to misunderstand this as a norms vs views issue. It is not. It is war.


> It is war.

This brings to mind the war on drugs, war on terror, etc. Typically war is used when we are meant to take sides in support of drastic action without too much thought getting in the way.

> He and his ilk are about weaponizing the norms of society to destroy society.

I'm honestly not sure from this comment if you are deliberately trolling/baiting or if you just feel a tremendous amount of righteous indignation and emotion about Alex Jones.

In my view, if we start to assume that all content on the internet has somehow been vetted by responsible elders who know what's best for us, we lose the (essential) ability to filter out the garbage for ourselves.

In today's world, people seem to flock toward authority figures of all kinds and wish to wield authority against others (by suppressing their speech, etc.). So your comment strikes me as an appeal to authoritarianism and a call to authoritarian action to crack down on morally objectionable content.

Some people think that a picture of two men holding hands is morally objectionable content, and they seek authority to make their view dominate the public discourse. How is your goal different from theirs other than in the small detail of which content is objectionable?


> This brings to mind the war on drugs, war on terror, etc. Typically war is used when we are meant to take sides in support of drastic action without too much thought getting in the way.

No, it isn't meant to dull anyone's thinking or whatever you are implying. It's quite straightforward. Recognize when war is being waged upon you, and act accordingly. Thus the category error attributed to your earlier comment.

> I'm honestly not sure from this comment if you are deliberately trolling/baiting

No, I'm being quite literal. You don't need to do any interpretation, or look for some deep motivation. Recognize when war is being waged. Simple.

> Some people think that a picture of two men holding hands is morally objectionable content, and they seek authority to make their view dominate the public discourse. How is your goal different from theirs other than in the small detail of which content is objectionable?

The fact that you draw an equivalence between a picture of men holding hands and Alex Jone's incitement says that you aren't really engaged in any meaningful discussion. This isn't a classroom, you aren't Plato or Socrates. You aren't interested in debate, you're just trolling.


In the interest of avoiding a flame war, I would like to clarify my comment. Please elaborate on what "war" is being waged. That's a strong statement. Jones is to me equivalent to those guys who wear the "got hates gays" signs and go to college campuses preaching inflammatory stuff, in other words, clowns.


This is a very good question, thank you. I am not very articulate in my ability to answer, but I'll give it a shot.

First I would say that it encompasses the fact that the purpose of propaganda, misinformation, and deception is not to inform but to incite, control, misdirect, and is otherwise malign in intent. The purpose of the action is to cause the recipient to self-harm, in the sense of sowing unwarranted distrust, fear, hatred, and division. The most fervent hope of those involved is that the US and the Western world devolve in to internal violence, disorganization, and dismemberment. I would add, these outcomes are very real risks as a result.

This is the major thrust of all of the most malignant social media operations, from Jones, to include wikileaks, the Russian astroturf and info theft campaigns, et. al.

The second aspect, not directly related to the speech aspect, is when political opponents are on the surface simply working the system but actually have no commitment to working within it and will only do so when obtaining their ends. For instance, the matter of the nomination of Garland to the US Supreme court was when it became clear that the party controlling congress was not actually committed to the norms and values of the institution, rather would do whatever they could get away with to achieve their ends. So also with voter disenfranchisement, making up lies about massive voter fraud, etc. These are all warfare, in that they are operating outside the value system that calls for free speech absolutism are assuming.

There is much to be learned from the likes of Arendt, Orwell, and others who studied the practices and effects of propaganda, disinformation, and related techniques. In my view all of these are outside the bounds of the social contract and are in fact warfare.


Interesting. Zooming out a bit I think you are making an argument similar to the argument entailed by the quote "war is politics with guns, and politics is war without guns".

The quote captures the violence inherent in politics. What is interesting about your argument is that you seem to carve out an exception for working within the system.

If we take "the system" to mean the dominant political order, or put another way, the manners and conventions preferred by those in power, then your comment seems to be a strong argument for preserving the status quo of powerful interests. This is nearly the definition of conservatism.

But you also mention that some try to attack our institutions. You include Wikileaks in that list, so I think there is an interesting distinction to be made.

Most of what Wikileaks does is to reveal corrupt or illegal behavior done by officials and government institutions. If the behavior that is revealed makes the public angry, then the leaked information puts the institutions involved in danger. The institutions generally exist because they provide a service to the public and the public funds the institutions in exchange for the service that is performed.

When leaked information shows that the service is not being performed in an honest way, the public may recoil and begin to question whether the institution should be trusted to continue functioning, since the leaked information reveals that there has been dishonest stewardship going on.

To use an analogy, take the situation with Jerry Sandusky. He ran the institution of Penn State football. Once someone leaked the information that he was abusing children with the help of some of his top staff members, the institution of Penn State football came under great scrutiny. In your words, it was "attacked" by those who were outraged that the legitimacy and history of the football program had been used to facilitate the inappropriate behavior of one man.

I view the leaked information and subsequent partial destruction of the Penn State football program as a very good thing. I'm actually very pleased that top aides to Sandusky were fired, and that Sandusky himself was no longer allowed to have a job where he could take advantage.

In the short term, this looks bad for the institution of Penn State football, but over time it offers the program a chance to rid itself of corruption and rebuild itself into a stronger institution that does not foster child abuse.

It sounds like you are arguing that there is a sacred area that it is impolite to question and impolite to "attack" if one comes to view it as being counter-productive. It seems that you believe that the people who leaked information that the US Government was lying to the public about the Iraq and Afghan wars should not have leaked the information but should instead have handled the situation internally within the military. Similarly one might expect that you would prefer that the person who leaked Sandusky's behavior should have instead gone to him and advised him to stop abusing children but should not have reported the abuse to authorities or the parents of the children he victimized.

While you may not hold these views, I think they may be logical consequences of the views you do express.

In my opinion, the only way we can have strong institutions is if we have high levels of accountability and zero wiggle room for fraud and corruption.

To draw on your point about information campaigns, I'm less concerned with the kinds of campaigns you mention and more concerned with the campaigns run by the most powerful interests. People in the US fear Muslims and brown folks largely because of a multi-billion dollar propaganda campaign intended to make Americans want wars in the middle east. There are unintended consequences to that campaign such as the fear and mistrust spilling over onto brown skinned immigrants from Latin America, etc.

There is very little scrutiny of key US institutions. The GSEs withheld financials for several years leading up to the crisis in 2008. Many officials have been found to have committed perjury, etc., yet have not been held accountable. There are so many disturbing ways in which the core institutions of our democratic system are being corrupted and used by those in power for their own benefit at the expense of society as a whole.

The solution is not trust in our leaders, good manners, or loyalty. The solution is to increase accountability and transparency. Someone like Jones should have no fodder for conspiracy theories because we should all see obviously corrupt leaders disgraced and removed fairly often.

How is it that we tolerate Paul Ryan, a man who has spent his life in public service and yet has a net worth exceeding $8 Million Dollars? Why don't we scrutinize how he got that money and what was exchanged for it?

When we allow this stuff to happen and we act loyal toward the people doing it, we empower people like Jones to embellish and stylize nearly any kind of conspiracy theory he dreams up. In a democracy, public servants do not become multi-millionaires. It just doesn't happen.


You have completely missed everything that I've said.

Wikileaks isn't about shedding light on corruption, as clearly indicated by Assange's activity during and after the 2016 campaign. His purpose and intent is to weaken the US and its ability to act as a united people for their own benefit. He's a happy Russian co-opt, a racist, a misogynist, and wants nothing more than to bring the US down for his own benefit.

Likewise all the other campaigns. It is a freshman error to believe the maskirovka, which is a plausible and agreeable statement of purpose or condition, and not see the underlying intent which is to do everything, anything, which reduces the ability of the people to unify and act in unity. Thus the funding and provocation of extremists on both left and right, ideology is irrelevant as long as division can be created and sown.

There is an enormous difference between the activities we are seeing, from Wikileaks, to Antifa, to the NRA, to Infowars,to Q, which are intended not to improve the US, but to destroy it, and some campaign which may be harmful to some in power but ultimately working within the social compact, for the benefit of others, and ultimately strengthening and unifying the people as a whole.

None of the above-named parties have the best interests of the US at heart. None of them. They are at war with the US, they are simply too weak to do so using overt violence. If they are a bit more successful we will see a shift in tactics, though, as we did in the 1970's, adding violence to the mix.

We should not be fools enough to let that happen.


OK I think I now understand your argument, but I have a few questions:

- Ignoring your unfair ad hominem aimed at Assange, you are making the broader point that many orgs can be "weaponized" in a way that creates division and tension. This is true.

- Is it your contention that the "activities we are seeing" are somehow part of a coordinated campaign? (antifa, NRA, Wikileaks, Infowars, Q).

- Or do you believe that each of these groups is independently seeking to harm the US by creating division?

- What would it mean to have the best interests of the US at heart? Over what time horizon is this defined? Which group of beneficiaries of such actions would be most aware of the benefits, which group least aware?

My view is that in a pluralistic society there are always countervailing interests. If I am selling a laptop I want to get a high price for it, the buyer wants to get a low price. We are strenuously opposed, yet if we transact we have reached an agreement.

In trade relationships, consensus takes place when a price is agreed on by two parties, but in governance, consensus is not so simple.

What does it mean to have consensus? The expression "the tyranny of the majority" illustrates the way in which the 51% may rule viciously over the 49%. Different political systems establish different consensus rules upon participants. Some democracies might require 100% consent by all citizens for anything to become law, others might require even less (such as plurality voting).

The NRA exists because the issue of gun ownership/rights lies close to the consensus margin... so do pro-life organizations. At least, pro-life organizations believe that the margin is close (I personally think that 80% or more oppose restricting reproductive freedom).

What happens when political action organizations wage campaigns that result in policy changes? By your definition I think you would say that something important is being destroyed. In the issue of reproductive freedom, depending on what side of the issue one is on, a change in laws would either be viewed as a great humanitarian tragedy or as a great humanitarian advancement... Or put another way, one side would view it as a great strengthening/improvement to the country, the other would view it as the destruction of something important.

So I'm trying to determine whether your view about those organizations trying to harm the US is based on the particulars of their views or of the tactics that they utilize to try to make political change.

I really do not understand how you could believe that in a democracy where people are free to vote for whichever candidate they prefer, how wikileaks revealing raw data from one of the candidates that would help voters come to understand the positions and opinions of the candidate better could possibly be viewed as anything other than a tremendous benefit to the democratic process.

In an election, one candidate has to win and another has to lose, and if voters are not supposed to use actual factual information to make the decision, what should they believe? Should they believe the TV commercials sponsored by the candidate? The lies told in speeches by the candidate?

To refer specifically to the Wikileaks emails from Clinton, I would strongly have preferred that someone also leak a bunch of Trump's emails, but I was personally very happy to see more details about what the candidate HRC actually believed in. It turned out she was both much more neoconservative than she had claimed, but also a bit more of a free-trade-idealizing libertarian. For me, this didn't really alter my view of her, some of the items were good news and others were bad news, and it all came out pretty much even.

So suppose that instead of Wikileaks the emails had been leaked to a major newspaper that did not publish all of them the way Wikileaks did but instead wrote individual stories highlighting the most newsworthy of the emails. Would this too have been an attack on the US? Why or why not?

In my view, we should all seek to be brothers in truth and the people should unite in solidarity against the elites who lie to us about wars and expect us to vote for them. Why do we accept their authority so readily? Why do people read newspapers of their chosen partisan slant and simply believe everything wholesale while disbelieving everything written in the opposing partisan newspaper?

In my view, it is the herd mentality and the high degree of loyalty that is the biggest threat to our freedom and our nation as a whole.


> Anyone of average intelligence who spends 30-60 seconds listening to Alex Jones will quickly realize that Jones suffers from some kind of mental illness or personality disorder, and that there is nothing of interest or value to learn from his rants.

If that were the case, he wouldn't have the popularity that he has, he would be just another rando ranting on a street corner. But that's not the case—the fact is, there are many people who spend time listening to him, who think that there is something of value to learn from his rants. So just shining a light on him isn't sufficient.

Sometimes, when you have an injury, you can just ignore it and let your body heal itself. And sometimes, when you have an injury, you need to be more proactive about recovery.


Simply censoring the content isn't healing anything, it's akin to putting masking tape over the injury to hide what is going on.

Note: I think it is dangerous to use nazi-style analogies for content we do not agree with. Calling it an infection, infestation, etc., does not help with the rational process of discussing the issue of content which some people find objectionable, it merely politicizes it and dehumanizes those who like the content.


>Simply censoring the content isn't healing anything

Yes, it does. it destroys his platform and importantly limits his ability to monetize what he's doing, which is probably a large reason for the continued existence of the whole endeavour, to begin with.

Censorship is a very effective tool to stop people like Jones from doing what they're doing. The point isn't to heal anyone, it's to contain it.


> it merely politicizes it and dehumanizes those who like the content

There's some pretty dehumanizing content out there, Alex Jones included.


About half the population has a below-average IQ. If we use it as a proxy for "intelligence", that leaves Jones with roughly a 100 million potential adult listeners, only in the US. That's enough to make him wildly popular.


I have absolutely no data to back this up, but I'd be surprised if Alex Jones's listeners are especially unintelligent to a statistically significant degree.


OK then consider it with 1 standard deviation of average. That was the intended meaning. The big hump of the normal distribution.


As Richard Feynman would say, there's plenty room at the bottom.


No, you don’t always need to shine light on all nastiness on the web to fight it. Do you remember YouTube’s comment section or any other forum without decent moderators?

I remember YouTube comments being highly nasty. Many people had installed browser plugins solely to hide YouTube comments. Google finally started to remove nasty comments. And now I rarely ever see horrible comments. In fact, you can actually get useful info from some comments and threads.

And this is not a free speech issue but a hate issue. Almost all platform forbid hate and violent content. I don’t understand why so many people are equating this with freedom of speech instead of TOS violation.


What if someone argued that killing food animals is murder and must be due to hate, and wanted a youtube channel about grilling meats to be taken down due to a TOS violation.

The problem with the whole idea of hate speech (which I think is a foolish idea) is that it classifies certain ideas as abhorrent. Ideas cannot be abhorrent, only actions can be.

If ideas were abhorrent, than we would all be guilty just for considering them, even if we decide for now to reject them. Not sure why you would assume that anyone holds non-provisional, permanent beliefs. That's just not how human consciousness works.

Actions can be harassing, inappropriate, etc. But someone simply publishing a private channel that others can encounter only through voluntary choices is not harassing.

Content platforms have the perverse incentive of appealing to society's moral leaders (these days usually politicians). We should resist the idea of legitimizing platform level censorship of content, and instead insist upon the higher standard of enforcing conduct guidelines. If a user harasses other users, that's a problem. If a user self-publishes opinions that are simply expressed as opinions, we should not view that as a problem unless the world we idealize is one in which views not held by moral leaders are always considered abhorrent.


Maybe, or maybe he’s just making a lot of money selling hatred.


I'm not familiar with Infowars, or the podcast. That said, I think we have to be very very cautious about allowing corporations, especially corporations as powerful as Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple, to act as gatekeepers on speech. It's hard to get the balance right on speech issues, and that's when the determination is being governed by a democratic government. Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter are in no way beholden to a representative electorate, and just because this particular instance makes sense, this is a massive shift of power from government to private corporation.

History has shown that this power has and will be abused. Even if it is not here, it will be in the future.


With Apple, Facebook and Spotify doing this (and lots of reporting about it) I'd say ... cue the Streisand effect.

Sometimes it's better to just not do anything, but I guess that doesn't get you PR points.


I've seen Infowars regularly mocked in mainstream comedy TV shows. Shining light on Infowars misinformation / ill intent is probably a good thing.

Adding barriers to passive consumption, by vulnerable (misinformed) people, is probably also a good thing. It's not being censored/outlawed, just made slightly less convenient to access. Fake news are a threat to democracy.


Censoring "fake" news is not the way to a healthy democracy. Educating people on how to use different sources and do their own critical thinking is what we need.


I agree we need better education about this sort of thing. I think it would be useful for all public schools to include this as part of their curriculum; I think you could easily spend an entire semester on learning to qualify media sources.

However, I think we should make the tradeoff explicit here. Just saying "Apple shouldn't do this because it's censorship, and censorship is bad" is a rather naive attitude. I would argue two things:

1. This isn't censorship, it's a refusal to broadcast. It's one thing to say "You can't say that", and another to say "I'm not going to allow you to use our platform to say that." The government is not allowed to prevent speech, but that doesn't mean that private companies are required to enable it.

2. It's not "fake" news. It's fake. It's literally made up stories, about child sex rings in pizza parlors and slave colonies on Mars.

So you might say, what's the harm in making up stuff? Well, people are shooting up restaurants and making on-air death threats to journalists and generally gravitating towards authoritarian viewpoints sponsored by organizations such as infowars. And guess what tool authoritarians love to employ? CENSORSHIP. Failing to hold these jokers accountable for their words and instigation actually and inevitably leads us farther down the path towards actual censorship than refusing to give them a platform. I would rather companies take a stand against this stuff than just allow them to exploit our misguided notions of democratic rule to undermine actual democratic rule.


> Educating people on how to use different sources and do their own critical thinking is what we need.

It is, just like we need to teach kids not to drink poison. But we also don't use "we need to teach kids not to drink poison" as an excuse to leave easily drinkable poison in reach.

At some point, we'll have educated people better on how to do their own critical thinking. But we're not there yet, and acting as if we were isn't a strategy for success.


In theory people would have consciousness and would have time to evaluate good from bad sources

In practice that's not what happens.

So yeah, I'm not shedding a tear over IW (though they probably have a point, on one occasion or another. Other media address these points so it's not dependant on them)


Except they're targeting vulnerable people. To some extent, it's not very different from spammers who do on purpose to write full of typos, so that most "smart enough" people will just delete their emails, not bother investigating/reporting it.


Fake news isn't a threat to democracy. People have lied about shit and given false narratives for all time. An uneducated or easily influenced population is a risk to democracy. There is no easy fix for old and uneducated people, we just need to make sure the next generation is less susceptible to bad influences.


>passive consumption

It doesn't just show up in your podcast feed.


It's gonna be awkward when comedy TV shows mock content that you can no longer access on facebook. Will comedy shows be reprimanded by fb in the future for posting show clips that contain cuts of Infowars saying crazy stuff?


"It's not outlawed, just inconvenient to access" is more than enough influence to dramatically (~90%) shape what information is consumed with no natural truth-seeking mechanism beyond your trust in the people imposing the inconvenience. There's a reason it's illegal for the government to do this, and we should demand that neutral platform organizations like Apple, Facebook, or a university don't do it either (which is not the same thing as saying that they should be forced by law to do it).


>and we should demand that neutral platform organizations like Apple, Facebook, or a university don't do it either (which is not the same thing as saying that they should be forced by law to do it)

What sorts of demands would be listened to or have any chance of being effective if not having the weight of force of law behind it?


The same thing that induces universities to behave reasonably well as neutral platforms. It is a combination of pressure from public esteem and the moral principles of the university (both the principles of individual administrators/professors and the principles explicitly endorsed by the organization as a whole). And all of that is interlinked.

It is an awful misconceptions that the only way to effectively get other people to act differently is with law. It is lazy and leads to unnecessary use of force. Most things that are bad are not illegal (e.g., lying to your friends, being mean, abandoning your parents, cheating on your spouse) and yet occur at much lower rates than they would without the many extra-legal mechanisms that keep them in check.


Might require another constitutional amendment.


Eh, no. The Streisand effect applies to getting attention to something that wouldn't have otherwise, and gaining momentum because of it.

This is about providing a platform to someone who willfully spreads lies.

There has been research into the effects of Reddit clamping down on hate speech a few years ago. Guess what: not giving assholes a platform actually works. It's still a cesspool but less so than it used to be.


Could you link if you have it? I'm genuinely curious.

I'm also suspicious -- what stops the aforementioned individuals from finding another website/forum? I seem to remember hearing that after Reddit closed down several of the more unsavory/flat-out-awful subreddits, a large contingent of those users moved to another site (can't remember which though).

FWIW, I support clamping down on hate speech, but only if it's accompanied by some form of education (otherwise, you're just hiding the problem).


Social science research indicates that it isn't about "hiding" hate directed speech, but rather to consider the impact on the victims of such speech. That is, when one is able to say the word "hiding", it is spoken from the position of privilege; it is a very real existential threat to those impacted.

Constricting hate speech has a notable impact on the dignity and well-being of those impacted[1].

[1] EG: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504630.2015.11...


Do you care at all about free speech? You are willing kill this beautiful freedom we have for that?


I would never support the government throwing Alex Jones in jail espousing his views (Assuming we're not talking about edge cases where freedom of speech does not apply).

But I also fully support the property rights of Twitter, Facebook, etc to exercise control over the content of their platforms.

You wouldn't permit someone setting up camp on your front lawn, passing out, say, NAMBLA literature would you? It's unlikely you'd say "Sir, I do not like that that you are on my lawn evangelizing man-boy love, but it's your god-given right to do so!" -- you'd probably (rightly say) "Get get the F--- off my lawn!"

Your property, your rules.


My point is Foolrush would.


Indeed I do support hate speech laws. As does a majority of the rest of the world.

There is a correlation between the support of freedom of speech and gender / race, unsurprisingly.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1559-1816....


If you're yelled at, boycotted, have your show canceled, or get banned from an internet community, your free speech rights aren't being violated. It's just that the people listening think you're an asshole and they're showing you the door.


If you're going to quote Randall Munroe, at least include a link ;-) https://xkcd.com/1357/


I guess I am worried that as the societal norm for allowing ideological differences to be expressed degrades that it will leak into politics in the form of hate speech laws. We are starting to have fully private struggle sessions on Twitter, using such tools to sick the mob on opponents. A new sort of bully pulpit.

I am not sure any populist politician has quite realized this power. Trump has to an extent but he has no backing from anyone in media, education, or most government employees. Now that Trump has broken so many tacit rules, I fear a charismatic leftist populist would be able to nationalize these private struggle sessions and vastly amplify his or her power.

The mob has not been a force in politics for a long time. I fear a resurgence.


Twitter, Apple etc are still private enterprises. This very forum exercises its rights every day - whether you call it censorship or moderation depends on your ideology.


I would happily "kill" your idea of "beauty" if it means more people can live the life you are without detrimental effects of hate speech on them, yes.

You realize which country has some of the more effective and stringent hate speech laws in the world? If you do, did you stop to ask yourself why?


#cancelhatespeech


Free speech refers to the freedom to not be thrown in jail by the government for things you have said that fall under protected speech. It has nothing to do with being allowed to post anything on any website you’d like.


Ok. So you don’t support laws against hate speech?


glenda was only pointing out how free speech is misunderstood; stating fact rather than what they do or don't support.


> a large contingent of those users moved to another site (can't remember which though)

https://voat.co/


Got a link, I'd (genuinely) like to see this research!


That would be this paper from Georgia Tech.

http://comp.social.gatech.edu/papers/cscw18-chand-hate.pdf


> Guess what: not giving assholes a platform actually works.

In other words, these platforms are powerful enough to silence people. Today, it's people you agree with silencing. Tomorrow, it may be people you disagree with silencing. It's not a good thing that massively powerful private companies are deciding what speech should be allowed and what should not. The law doesn't require it, but as users, we should demand that these major platforms are open to everyone, not just the ones that the majority currently approves of.


Who gets to define what is a "major platform"?

Their platform, their rules, within the confines of the law.


> The Streisand effect applies to getting attention to something that wouldn't have otherwise, and gaining momentum because of it. This is about providing a platform to someone who willfully spreads lies.

Those aren't orthogonal. They seem to both be true in this case (what "it is about" is subjective).


The inevitable discussion about the need for hate speech laws in the USA is lurking. Sadly, the USA had a chance at them a while back, but I believe it was Justice Scalia who struck it down?


I totally disagree. I am sure cutting these dangerous people from the mainstream website will slowly kill them.


I think the Streisand Effect is overstated. Apple has nearly two thirds of the podcast market.[0] Together with the other platforms that have removed these podcasts, upwards of three quarters of podcast listeners will no longer be able to easily access or discover this content. Starving this show of its largest audiences is more likely to cripple it, not galvanize it.

[0] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-market-share-of-podcast-ap...


I don't think the Streisand effect applies in this case. The site has repeatedly broken the terms of usage of all of these platforms. The ban should therefore appear reasonable to people.

The Streisand effect applies when the attempt is to hide or censor information for no reason other than hiding information.


Lots of people don’t know where Barbara Streisand lives (despite the Streisand effect, I don’t). It would have to be a pretty deep cave you live in to not have heard of Alex Jones, especially if you stand any chance of enjoying his show.


Do you really think that this action is going to bring more attention to Infowars? I really doubt whether the Streisand Effect is a factor here. Anyone who didn't know what Infowars is already won't be interested in this news.


Nah, the Streisand effect only applies when increased attention on a subject would result in a negative result. "Barbera Streisand wants photos of her beachfront mansion removed because she thinks it's an invasion of her privacy" reflects badly on Barbera Stresiand. "Apple is removing Infowars because it traffics in outright lies" reflects badly on Infowars.


arguably having infowars be high up on the "most downloaded" podcast list would be worse. especially if they categorize themselves as news or politics instead of entertainment.


deleted.


> Only extremists on the right will be censored.

This is obviously not true. Apple has had a ridiculous "no politics" policy on the App Store for years, censoring the anti-war left.

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/538kan/apple-just...


That’s pretty terrible.


It’s also factually true that human violence has enabled certain bloodlines the opportunity to advance, while hindering others.

I’m leery of people who cite one scientific data point alone. It smells like an appeal to authority. And you’re throwing up a strawman with your rhetoric about blocking a communist podcast.

Alex Jones himself has said in court it’s an act and he’s just an entertainer. Sometimes the act gets old and shows get canceled. Is that censorship?

In this case the show isn’t even canceled. Just removed from one of dozens of podcast directories. It’s still findable at the source. Your complaint is really about the creation of a slight inconvenience. There’s no real censorship here.


I'm most worried about Spotify, who already plays kingmaker for upcoming artists. They could use Twitter-like 'shadowban' techniques take punitive measures against 'bad' music artists. Because isn't there a lot of music that plausibly contains 'hate speech' or 'incitements of violence'?

Not saying they will, because they haven't indicated that yet, but they are working with the extremist SPLC to craft a policy around 'hate' content and 'hateful' content (the latter to presumably include content that isn't hate content but could be misconstrued as hate content, perhaps?).

https://newsroom.spotify.com/2018-05-10/spotify-announces-ne...


Already happening:

http://www.metalsucks.net/2017/09/14/infant-annihilator-bann...

That was the moment when I cancelled my spotify account.

Oh and to be sure, they don't need to "working with the extremist SPLC" to do that. This ban has more to do with some sort of pseudo moral outrage, wich the right is quite capable of on their own.


> extremist SPLC

No.


Yes. The SPLC put reform Muslim Maajid Nawaz and anti-FGM campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali on their list of hate speech advocates until threatened with legal action by Nawaz.

Right leaning source: http://dailycaller.com/2018/04/19/splc-maajid-nawaz-muslim-e...

Left leaning source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/opinion/southern-poverty-...


Just to be clear - It looks like iTunes does allow you to subscribe by entering the RSS url directly.

They are removing the podcast from their directory of podcasts, not blocking the ability to subscribe.


There may be a market for an anti-malware that targets content like Inforwars and classifies it as malware.

I'd love to see that.


Be careful what you wish for.


I kind of half-jokingly made one. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/unpepefy-making-tw...

It really doesn't prevent infection, just warns you about stuff that may be unhealthy.


If you send Alex Jones a submission on how great Hillary Clinton is, do you think it’ll get posted on infowars? No Does that mean Alex Jones is limiting your free speech’s by denying you access to his platform?

You can argue that Facebook, Apple and twitter are bigger platforms, but the principal is really the same.

Free speech is the right to say what you want, the way you want it, without being procecuted by the government or murdered by a violent mob.

Free speech is not the right to be heard.

I see the problem of the idea of huge media platforms banning content, but only as an idea. Alex Jones is a hate mongering asshole, that while entertaining, is also dangerous. When infowars ran a piece on the Sandy Hook tradegy, labeling it as a false flag and the victims as actors, some of those parents who lost their children received death threats. Some of those parents are still in hiding today, thanks to infowars and their insane audience.

I don’t think the free world, or free speech, suffered anything from this asshole being banned from iTunes.


I don't think Infowars has ever advertised itself an a non-political way for people to connect with each other.


What if we find out the government were making the frogs gay?


As an Austinite (well now Iowan) who grew up with plenty of Alex Jones on the airwaves, it's stuff like this I'll actually-in a morbid kind of way-really miss. I suppose you have to be exposed to it long enough to grow numb to it but Alex Jones became a source of entertainment as I grew older just to see what wackiness he'd come up with next. Gay frogs still manages to put a grin on my face even on my most stressful days.

It was almost a contest between he and the considerably less inflammatory but still uniquely weird John Aielli.

This isn't, nor should be read as a defense of Alex Jones by any sane person-but an acknowledgement of the absurd. I mean come on. Gay frogs? You gotta admit--it's chuckleworthy.


I agree; I "got into" Alex Jones because it was genuinely funny to see this narrative of a reality that exists only in video games and conspiracy fiction. It was so nakedly transparent as a kind of LARP and entertainment to front a largely boring reactionary conservatism (edit: and sell powders).

That all changed when either he "lost the plot" and began to believe it all, or the constant need to stay ahead of the news cycle (everything's a false flag, everyone in Hollywood or DC is a homosexual/pedophile/drug user, etc), combined with increasing mainstream coverage, make it genuinely harmful.

That the mask only drops in response to lawsuits is the tell, I think, and that's why I'm not really concerned about this having hugely unintended consequences and chilling effects. If his lawyers are to be believed (yeah, I know, don't @ me) then he's a grifter and actor but his storyline is harmful. No one has to carry his content; he can create his own media network and distribute it there.


Serious question: how do you make sure that none of this stuff you're listening to leaks into your perception of the real world? Are you sure you're just regarding it as some weird dystopian fiction, like Scarfolk or the SCP foundation, and not letting it affect your real politics?


I suppose that question would require a bit of insight into how you define "affect" and a deeper inquiry into what my "real" politics currently are, in order to draw a meaningful contrast-wouldn't it?

As asked-I'm not particularly sure I'm open to arbitrarily unloading all of that context-and reduce it all down to a simplified yes or no.


It's a shame this is getting downvoted because it's a good point, and the very same can be said about late night comedians and their "I'm just a comedian bro, you expect me to be accurate and consistent, lol" bits on the news of the day. These things do have an effect on perception of reality.


I admit I wasn't at all surprised to see it getting downvoted so heavily-I was not one of them I as I agree; it's a good question-even if, directed at me-I'm not inclined to go through all of the setup and groundwork necessary to give a response in the affirmative or otherwise.

Being willing to critique ones own body politic is a healthy thing. My lack of surprise comes from this strange phenomenon going about that presumes anything short of full-fledged vociferous condemnation or admonishment must automatically mean harbored complicity and is worth the harshest rebuke or silent dissent in the form of drive by downvotes without much contemplation or substantive discussion in the slightest.


> this strange phenomenon going about that presumes anything short of full-fledged vociferous condemnation or admonishment must automatically mean harbored complicity and is worth the harshest rebuke or silent dissent in the form of drive by downvotes without much contemplation or substantive discussion in the slightest

It's not so much strange, it's simple human nature really. The strange part to me is how common it is becoming on a forum as intelligent as HN. Most people here see themselves as a cut above the general public when it comes to intellectual capability, and they're right, but even with this genuine intellectual advantage so few people seem able to notice that they too are neck deep in the cultural meme war, and guilty of many of the same (or at least similar) transgressions of those they criticize, albeit to a lesser degree.

To me, this is the big elephant-in-the-room problem we should be talking about rather than obvious idiots like Infowars, and the stakes are very high in the long term.

(.....and, possibly relevant, I'm "you're posting too fast" throttled, once again. Is that message 100% consistent with the underlying algorithm? Oh right, "freedom of speech doesn't guarantee you a platform", there's nothing more to be said about the matter, full stop. As long as we follow the law to the letter, "it's all good bro".)


I find that most of it strengthens my opposing view and a sliver of it makes me reconsider my own beliefs.

I find radio which has a perspective that matches my own to be insufferable. It’s not funny, it’s uptight, it’s often miserable in it’s Subject matter.

I just prefer my entertainment to be creative people arguing absurd points over boring professors explaining climate change.


“Keep Austin Weird” (but not that weird)


> I suppose you have to be exposed to it long enough to grow numb to it

That's why most of us consider Alex Jones to be a joke, but the reason Apple and Spotify are making this move is because many people, exposed long enough to Alex Jones, start to believe what Alex Jones has to say.


Oh, heard, understood and acknowledged. I get that completely (don't know that I agree that it's a good reason to take him off the air). My story wasn't meant to suggest this isn't the case for many, but to just share an anecdote of the humor Mr. Jones brings to my life because I tend to appreciate absurdity when I see it.

I'm still sitting behind this keyboard chuckling slightly at the idea that a human being has the capacity to be so completely apoplectic over homosexual amphibians.


if he was playing a character, and had disclaimers as such at the beginning, middle, and ending of his podcast, i'd love alex jones. kind of a "what would he say next?" sort of thing, mixed with plenty of onion-esque satire.

the problem is he's not. he holds these beliefs, and with his platform, he's leading other people to hold them as well. some are fairly benign, like gay frogs. others are downright sick, like calling the sandy hook kids crisis actors.

what i'm getting at is someone needs to mirror him, with disclaimers that everything that comes out of the host's mouth is ludicrous, asinine, and should never be considered rational thought. like the jackass intros, "you, and all your stupid little friends, should never try this at home."


Personally I don’t think adults need their world wrapped in disclaimers, warnings, and ratings. Particularly when the same become a kind of censorship, like how all DRUDGE tweets come up moderated as sensitive on Twitter.


I often wonder if there's a way to talk about this without the C word coming up, as it seems to quickly slide down the rabbit hole of definitions and what the substantive merit of 'censorship' is.

Okay, sure YouTube telling Alex Jones to kick rocks isn't censorship, because only the government has that power.

It used to be a go-to move of mine to remind the holder of that opinion that government (supposedly) exists as a stand-in embodiment of the will of the people. The kind of laws we pass (or allow to pass) are macro-indicators of what we value. Certain amendments are passionately argued as being just that-weirdly, except the first amendment. It gets all sort of special treatment that sometimes (operative word) looks like selective application of the argument of "only government" can curtail speech.

Lately though I'm beginning to wonder if a better argument against "only the government can enforce speech" looks something like questioning the power given to corporations (those private enterprises that are free to curtail speech as much as they like) to suppress or hide what Edward R Murrow called "unpleasant or disturbing information"[1] with how much power and influence these corporations have at large, comparatively speaking at the government level.

Or, said much more succinctly: I'm terrified of the eagerness to treat 'freedom of speech' as something that is universally, and singularly granted by the government-and I think it hides some really painful truths about the speaker that they probably would never admit themselves if pressed.

---

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/39004-we-have-currently-a-b...


Our free speech laws prevent government censorship, but also stretch to include the concept of corporate censorship in the sense of allowing access to “the public square”. IMO this public square concept will inevitably extend to major internet service providers like Facebook, Google, and Apple.

Similar to how we’ve come to understand the Internet as a whole as a utility which should provided as a dumb-pipe service by companies which must promise neutrality, a similar argument can be made that despite being run by private enterprise (so is most internet infrastructure anyway) that these monopolistic services are so core to how we actually use — and harness — the power of the internet that there is a level of neutrality required in their administration as well.


This is a great point and an even greater counter I think to give a more explicit argument as to the usefulness of the Internet.


Would you say John Oliver serves that role pretty decently?


ehh, i'm thinking more colbert report's take on conservative tv. john definitely has the wacky "what will he say next" down, but it's not a satire of aj. i'm looking more for someone who speaks like aj does, about conspiracies as dumb if not dumber than gay frogs.


Jordan Klepper might be the opposer you're looking for. Unfortunately, they were cancelled recently


I believe the gay frogs thing is based on the effects of atrazine in the water:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301151927.h...


I mean that’s more or less accurate, is it not? Frog populations have been way down due to government policies on water quality and invasive species.


Am I disturbed at the idea of a centralized publishing / distribution platform censoring videos/recordings that it characterized in a certain way?

I'm actually far more concerned that not a lot of people are challenging the question of whether those characterizations can one day become (if they are not already becoming) arbitrary, self-serving, overly broad, or even simply 'by popular demand' removing items based on an increasingly politicized/bifurcated population.

I would argue that choosing winners and losers in the realm of ideas -- which is different than, say, graphic videos, where the criteria are easier to craft ["no nudity" or "no violence" examples of criteria with fewer edge cases] -- goes against core concepts of Western ideals of liberty and the marketplace of ideas. For if there's an objective reality out there, and each of us can seek it out for his/her self, there's no need for an overarching authority to remove "conspiracy theories" to protect our simple minds from accidentally becoming infected with false ideas.

I never enjoyed the screaming histrionics of Jones, nor his absurd obsessions, but I'm increasingly concerned that this Postmodern society is more concerned with what it views as Correct and Incorrect Ideas in such realms as comedy and discourse (the overly used "political correctness" that we often argue over so much) than letting individuals think things out for themselves.

I have a cultural foot in the door in both Europe and the U.S., and one point of contention I'll forever have with the European leg of the value system is the absurd notion that laws or norms should protect people from being offended and root out "false ideas." Not because I want people to be offended or because I think false ideas are good; instead, I simply don't trust anyone -- not a European judge nor some Apple bureaucrats -- to have better judgment than the rest of the population in this matters.

Applauding Jones getting wiped clean from these channels of distribution is short-term: one day there might be something less vile, less clear-cut, an edge-case, that gets removed and you'll have to shout to get it back. Be careful.


I used to think the name "Infowars" was melodramatic, but I guess not.


It's crazy to me that they banned pornographic apps from the app store but still let this hot garbage be listed on their platform for so long.


They go further than that. We had an app for models and fans to interact which showcased Instagram models and celebrities with profiles built using the Instagram API for verification. Apple told us we had to tone it down and censor a lot of the sexier photos like bikini and so on that was found on their Instagram profiles. We explained they were simply using the same photos found on their Instagram and if they had a problem with their images they should report them to Instagram. They basically told us no, we would have to manually censor the profiles instead. They found another reason to remove us from the store in the end flushing years of work down the toilet for us. They are completely arbitrary in how they censor the stores, there's no equitable standard. Basically, if you're Instagram or Twitter you can push the limits, but smaller businesses like ours get thrown out.


The bigger story is that Facebook removed several Infowars pages. That's a big hit in terms of their ability to grow through shares/likes and reach a wider audience. I don't know if the Podcast directory is a big source of newcomers, is it?


I do agree that the Facebook news is bigger than both Apple and Spotify combined. And InfoWars seems to agree as well, as they've published a video complaining about Facebook's decisions almost immediately.

However, I don't think that's the biggest damage they could face from a single provider. I'd say that YouTube could absolutely break the entire thing down to pieces.

There are dozens of YouTube videos on their channel with millions of views, often multiple hours long. Hosting multiple hour long video files in a way that millions of people can stream them reliably, that's going to take some effort (and a non-negligible amount of resources).

Since YouTube offers them both discoverability and unlimited video bandwidth, if YouTube made a similar decision to Facebook, they would most probably be destroyed in an instant.


YouTube has now banned them as well so they will probably move to dTube / HookTube or one of the blockchain / p2p alternatives. Ironically a big channel like Infowars moving to these alternatives might start the ball rolling in making those platforms more popular.

I occasionally listen to Alex Jones for background noise and entertainment value. There is something amusing in his voice, delivery and absurdity - perhaps I am a little privileged to be able to feel that way because he is nowhere close to home for me, as I live in India.


> The one platform that they CAN'T ban and will ALWAYS have our live streams is http://infowars.com/show

Challenge accepted. Where are they hosted? The videos stream from Akamai CDN. CNN can now press Akamai to remove Infowars.

Do they use CloudFlare? CloudFlare is know to censor far-right sites (but not jihadi sites).


This is basically the issue with the internet as it stands now. There is no space outside of the control of a company that might wish to protect their reputation at your expense, meaning that anything unpopular enough can be de facto banned by no one ever hosting it. It's like if the streets and town square didn't exist, and shopping malls owned every 'public' area.


important and accurate subhead:

'Move thrusts tech giant into the debate over censoring content on internet platforms'


Apple has been censoring podcasts all along. This debate might be about technicalities in the Terms of Service but it's not about censorship.


It's their store. Surely it's entirely their prerogative to decide which products they choose to sell or not sell.


Won't change anything. Do you really think that InfoWars listeners really use Apple as their only point of exposure.

Also a little hypocritical of Apple, they have some very inflammatory/deceptive podcasts run by some pretty nasty people, but because they aren't InfoWars it's ok.

Apple is not virtuous, nor will they ever be, regardless of what they want you to think.


I see a lot of comments regarding freedom of speech. But this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has everything to do with hate. I would not eat at a restaurant that has hate propaganda on their walls. This is same thing.

He is free to publish his podcast on the internet, no one is stopping. If US government bans him, then we are in a big trouble.


Regardless of your views of specific individuals, I hope the big corps enjoy their censorship abilities now because it won't be very long before they lose their positions of power. Decentralization is coming...


Previous discussion from 8 hours ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17695323 (107 comments)


so wrong.

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction. - Wikipedia


None of those things happened to Alex Jones.

Freedom of speech isn’t the right to be heard, mind you. If you came by my house wanting to sell Jesus and I shut the door on you, you’d still have free speech.


True, he was using a private media outlet.

They do have a legal right to discriminate which they used against him.

But still that does not change the fact that the media outlets are the ones that choose who has a right to speak and discriminate.


Reposting this here since just after I posted in the Ars version of this that got marked as a dupe:

I consider myself an extremely strong First Amendment advocate and "free speech absolutist" when it comes to government force, and I am also uncomfortable about where the line should be for "private entities" that manage to achieve quasi-governmental levels of power, though I do not think that any level of non-violent restriction is directly comparable to censorship via the government's monopoly on physical force.

That said, a major question for me that has been growing bigger and bigger in my mind over the last decade is what exactly should be Free Speech's answer to denial of cognition attacks (and I want to be extra clear that it is a question, I have not been able to come to at all a satisfactory universal answer myself yet). Likely everyone on HN will be familiar with the concept of resource exhaustion attacks in the context of computers and networks. DOS mitigation has regrettably become a near requirement for any significant public facing Internet service. But fundamentally resource exhaustion attacks apply equally well to humans. In the idealized world of discussion and debate and philosophy abstract models of conduct are often used, but at the end of the day "implementation" still comes down to individual humans, each of whom only has so much mental capacity and so much time. And many arguments involving reality can easily be asymmetric too: it takes very little time and energy to make an assertion but a great deal to disprove it. Reality is under no obligation to be simple and elegant to human preferences.

I have seen this get put into practice with ever greater sophistication on a lot of my favorite forums. Someone arguing BS will throw out a bunch of simple stuff that takes a great deal of careful posting to show is wrong. If people volunteer their time to answer in that thread, it does no good in preventing the exact same assertions from being tossed out again (maybe remixed) in a new thread a week or month or whatever later. Eventually people just get tired or are busy. If they try to point towards a centralized source instead, that source can then be attacked and you see "argument from authority durr" and the like thrown out. It's bad faith but in a way that exploits a lot of the norms around free speech and argumentation, which classically didn't have the same scaling and automation threats. In fact, perhaps even more pernicious is when it's not bad faith but someone who has been fed a bunch of stuff they are arguing in all earnestness, yet there simply isn't time to address them individually. They must be directed to authorities and be expected to educate themselves on it.

I'm not sure what the answer is but we do clearly have a problem as some of the previous natural barriers due to cost of speech have fallen. It is common to speak of a "Marketplace of Ideas" when it comes to Free Speech, but it's important to remember that "Free Markets" are specific real tools that require regulatory support to function and have no goals of their own. Costs need to be internalized, information and processing ability needs to be symmetric, there needs to be a shared base of legal structure and norms to work on top of. Getting too far away from that results in market failure. I don't know how that might be translated to Free Speech but I do think we're seeing a "market of ideas failure" to some extent right now, and that it could easily get much worse in the near future unchecked. There is a need for better ways to improve the signal/noise cost function, and for systems to re-internalize that the point of Free Speech, of marketplaces of ideas or markets of anything at all, is to come up with good products. They're tools to serve humanity. Bad ones shouldn't be banned by force but they shouldn't be flourishing either, if they are then something isn't working.


I think the answer is fairly easy. If someone is an asshole online, you ban or ignore them.

Free speech is the right to speak your mind without being prosecuted by the government, it’s not the right to force your opinion on people who don’t want it.


To call that "fairly easy" seems a little overly glib maybe? I mean just look at the HN comments on this, or the comments on the WSJ article or the Ars version. Lots of people have internalized that banning people is "censorship" and nearly always wrong, and that the "right answer" to bad information is more information. Of course that framework for dealing with info attacks doesn't really address what to do when the shear amount of information is the attack.

As it stands though, within current speech norms and ideals of debate dating back to Athens at least, there are lot of people very angry about bans. And that matters to commercial entities in particular, which means banning isn't "easy" (even ignoring the lack of any time equivalency token system to deal with the economics of suspensions or bans better).

>Free speech is the right to speak your mind without being prosecuted by the government, it’s not the right to force your opinion on people who don’t want it.

You don't need to tell me that, I covered in the first paragraph of my post. But it's not unreasonable to talk about wider concepts for the "marketplace of ideas" as it serves society beyond the critical foundation of the 1A. I think we may need better norms and tools to help private entities in determining where lines should be and how to go about that. And I also think it's disingenuous to not address private entities that achieve levels of societal power that approach modern government even if they don't have armies of their own, particularly when there is in fact subtle government backing down the chain somewhere (DMCA for example).


I think it’s fairly easy.

It’s not my fault people have the wrong assumption that free speech meant you could say what you want without consequences.

Part of why free speech work is because adults accept responsibility for their actions, and part of that is living with the consequences of how you behave. When you offend people for a living, people are going to get offended and then they genuinely won’t want to listen to what you have to say.

Which is their right.


He is very clearly talking about something broader and more nuanced/complex, a "marketplace of ideas", yet you've twice misinterpreted that as a simplistic appeal to a pedantic interpretation of "free speech as defined by the US Government".

Dismissing any discussion on this topic as simply "you have the right to free speech, but you're not guaranteed a platform" in the age of the internet, with absolutely no consideration whatsoever for larger long term considerations and risks displays that the speaker is not righteously unbiased. Sure, they're undoubtedly more correct than Alex Jones and his ilk, but they're not fully willing to support a marketplace of ideas on principle. If your ideological team is winning, this is a natural tendency, but consider a scenario where your team isn't - then what?

From where I sit, this is a good demonstration of the nature, difficulty, and importance of the problem we're dealing with in our complex societies.


It's not broader or more nuanced though, the first amendment is very clear. Apple is no more forced to include infowars on their platform, than inforwars is forced to post an article you sent them.

It has nothing to do with free speech.

I can see why inforwars readers aren't happy with this, but I don't really care what they think. People who send death threats to parents who lose children in school shootings because infowars labeled them as actors in false flag operations are assholes.

Who wants to listen to them? And it's not like they're not allowed to say what they want, they absolutely are, they just can't force anyone to listen.

Ironically, if you want the government to force private companies to include inforwars on their platforms, well, then you're really not very different from the left-leaning marxists who wants the government to force companies to hire 50/50 male/women directors.

Equality of outcome is always evil, and there is nothing complicated or nuanced about it.


> If someone is an asshole online, you ban or ignore them.

Who watches the watchmen?


You do, none of this was done in secret. If you fundamentally disagree with then decision the nobody is forcing you to visit infowars.com through itunes.


Your whole "easy" solution is not a solution. You just avoid the condition and expect it's solved.


It was solved, Alex Jones broke the rules and reaped the consequences. If you posted the same sort of content you would have been banned a lot sooner, and rightly so, being popular shouldn’t give you the right to be evil.

I mean, by all rights, Trump should have been banned from twitter as well, but I guess you can become popular enough that rules don’t apply.

But that is frankly wrong.


>> He [xoa] is very clearly talking about something broader and more nuanced/complex [than the first amendment], a "marketplace of ideas", yet you've twice misinterpreted that as a simplistic appeal to a pedantic interpretation of "free speech as defined by the US Government"

His initial post:

"I consider myself an extremely strong First Amendment advocate and "free speech absolutist" when it comes to government force, and I am also uncomfortable about where the line should be for "private entities" that manage to achieve quasi-governmental levels of power, though I do not think that any level of non-violent restriction is directly comparable to censorship via the government's monopoly on physical force.

That said.....<where he goes into some other related but distinctly different (from the first amendment) ideas...>"

And then your reply, where having literally just finished reading a substantial block of text (the above is just one excerpt), you act as if he was specifically discussing the first amendment, and only the first amendment:

> It's not broader or more nuanced though, the first amendment is very clear.

He is not talking only about technicalities of the first amendment, yet you continue to reply as if he is.

My questions to you:

Are you aware that you are doing this? Is this behavior accidental, or is it intentional?

One idea xoa discusses is the notion of "human resource attacks": "I have seen this get put into practice with ever greater sophistication on a lot of my favorite forums. Someone arguing BS will throw out a bunch of simple stuff that takes a great deal of careful posting to show is wrong. If people volunteer their time to answer in that thread, it does no good in preventing the exact same assertions from being tossed out again (maybe remixed) in a new thread a week or month or whatever later. Eventually people just get tired or are busy. If they try to point towards a centralized source instead, that source can then be attacked and you see "argument from authority durr" and the like thrown out. It's bad faith but in a way that exploits a lot of the norms around free speech and argumentation, which classically didn't have the same scaling and automation threats. In fact, perhaps even more pernicious is when it's not bad faith but someone who has been fed a bunch of stuff they are arguing in all earnestness, yet there simply isn't time to address them individually. They must be directed to authorities and be expected to educate themselves on it."

I would assert that what's happening here is a specialized variant of a more general "human resource attacks", specifically patience, and it is something one will see repeatedly in forums, particularly on topics that fall under the the social sciences. In this case, xoa is trying to have a genuine conversation in good faith about an important topic, and you are exhibiting a behavior where you repeatedly behave as if you misunderstand the specific point he is trying to make, even when it is explicitly pointed out to you that in your responses you are changing the subject from what he is actually talking about to a related topic of your choosing, and then using that to dismiss his points.

I wonder if anyone has catalogued all of these behaviors/techniques. I recall encountering mention of some sort of a handbook on disrupting online forums or communities, I wonder if this might be something it covered, because these techniques (techniques if conscious and deliberate, behaviors if an observation of subconscious human behavior) are very effective, and in my experience (from looking for these types of behaviors while reading forums for quite some time), very common.


There's a weird balance where just saying "hey we don't want to censor things" doesn't seem to make you seem very neutral when you're hosting something that is hateful towards others or just straight false information.


Apple doesn't host any podcasts in iTunes - it's just a directory. And you can still use iTunes or the iOS Podcasts app to subscribe to the podcast via it's RSS feed.


I guess I was thinking of "hosting" more generically. Feel free to substitute a better term, I'm operating on limited sleep ;)


I may disagree with what you say but I'll defend with you the right to say it.

Apple's wrong here.


So Apple isn’t allowed the freedom to do as they want?

On a smaller scale, you couldn’t get your content posted on infowars if they didn’t like it. Does that mean infowars is stepping on your rights?

No, because freedom of speech isn’t the same thing as the right of being heard. You can say what you want, but I don’t have to listen to you.


> So Apple isn’t allowed the freedom to do as they want?

Giving for-profit corporations "freedoms" like they were people was a mistake. Once an organization grows to a certain size, it has more in common with a government than a person. When that happens, their "freedoms" should be appropriately circumscribed.


So who determines which companies have the rights to exclude others and which doesn't?


> So who determines which companies have the rights to exclude others and which doesn't?

You misunderstand: I wasn't commenting on which companies have rights or not, but about which rights companies should have at all, and where their rights stand in relation to those held by individuals. Corporations are not natural persons, they're creatures animated by legislation and can be regulated by it or abolished entirely.


This has absolutely nothing to do with that though. You can't force a company or an individual to listen to your opinion on whether penguins are the greatest birds alive.


> You can't force a company or an individual to listen to your opinion on whether penguins are the greatest birds alive.

No, that's wrong. The government can force a company to provide services to someone, despite however much that company may disagree them, their views, or their identity. A lot of anti-discrimination law works that way. For instance: private individuals have the right not associate with a particular person for any reason, but companies do not.


The government shouldn’t though, equality of outcome is evil, forcing someone to keep Alex Jones is similar to forcing a company to hire 50/50 male/women staff.

If you violate a TOS you get banned. Alex Jones is a vile troll, he broke the rules and reaped the consequences. The government shouldn’t prevent this just because he has vile listeners.


Only problem with that is when the other uses the rights you have afforded them to either infringe or incite infringement upon your freedoms.


What do you mean?



They should've made their Podcasts app actually usuable while they were at it.


Infowars: "Californian tech communist gay froggers thwart free speech with help of nazi BDSM aliens"


I'd download that.


Read through the dead comments here on this topic. Now tell me censorship isn't political.


Alex Jones is a fruitcake, but I don't like this as a general trend. Effectively, once things aren't available on the main marketplace, they don't exist anymore for most people. RSS is still kind of a thing for podcasts, but everything wants to use either iTunes or Soundcloud etc. iTunes is so bad on Windows that I want to rip my hair out...


[flagged]


Can you link to some left leaning "government turn frogs gay" kinda podcasts?


Google "atrazine frogs" and you'll get plenty of left leaning environmental articles talking about pesticide runoff turning frogs from male to female.

The "turning frogs gay" is reductive and hyperbolic, but unlike most of the nonsense spouted by Jones it is at least grounded in something resembling fact.


Abby Martin a crazy 9/11 truther who constantly lies and bends facts to fit her nerrative to the point where even pRopagandaToday had to boot her out. Today she is affiliated with some Venezuelan news outlet but she still spreading her lies on the Empire Files and other outlets.


> There are plenty of offensive and overdramatic left-leaning podcasts

How many of them accuse the victims of mass shootings of being false flag actors?


I can't find something that specific but here is a democratic elected official saying that her supporters should harass her political opponents https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Sus_0zebE-k


In what way are those things equivalent?


[flagged]


> But from what I gather Alex is an entertaining quack who is ultimately harmless except in the sense that his message is subversive to the “wrong” groups.

"Jones insisted that the kids’ deaths were a great hoax, a performance staged by gun-control activists backed by the American government. As a result of that, Noah Pozner’s family says, they have been stalked and subjected to death threats by Jones’s legions of epistemically gullible yet digitally savvy followers—a fact that has, doxxing by doxxing, forced them to move seven times over the past five years, ever farther away from the body of their slain son."

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/08/th...


I’m not sure I’d call Alex Jones harmless considering the parents of Sandy Hook victims received death threats after his show labeling them as actors in a false flag operation.


I think this is the fine line where the limit should be drawn.

I am entertained as anyone by conspiracy theories, and I am free to believe them or not. But if tomorrow morning, I would wake up with my name on infowars, saying I am part of the plot, it would not take long to create serious problems.


He was toeing the line of violence against journalists though, which is exactly when the take downs started to happen. "I don't condone violence buuuuuut..." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/07/13/infowars-perso...


I didn’t watch the video, just read the transcript. Your quote is the headline but it’s merely paraphrasing what was actually said.

The transcript is talking about how media is trying to drum up a narrative that any violence against the media is Trump and InfoWars and Breitbart fault. This is seen as another means of censorship and blame gaming.

The specific example that comes to mind is of the attack in Baltimore Capital Gazette which just last week journalists were yelling “What about Baltimore?!” at Sarah Huckabee Sanders, when we know the gunman had specific personal animus and had even made Twitter threats against the paper, and yet CNN anchors claim it’s Trump fault for inciting violence against reporters....

Statements like this are purely political. There was no call for violence. This is discussing current events and the narrative around inciting violence against the media (“Acosta’s life threatened at Trump rally”) which is kind of an important story going on right now. But because they are on the “wrong” side of the narrative, we’ll find a way to call it hate speech and ban it?


Sandy Hook. Pizza Gate.

We can all laugh about "gay frogs" but the guy is dangerous.

Let's just agree to disagree. I read your comment history. There's no point in debating you.


I do have a fairly strongly held belief that speech is not “dangerous” unless it is a direct incitement to violence. I believe it’s much more likely (and has happened consistently throughout history) that “subversive” speech is labeled as dangerous in an attempt to silence the message or messenger. Very often the benefit of time shows that the particular censorship was actually about oppression and not security.

I actually have learned a lot over the last few years on HN in discussions on all sorts of thorny topics with people holding diverse viewpoints.

Throughout those discussion I try very hard to avoid ad hominem attacks, or personally disparaging remarks. We’re not obligated to engage or reply to comments espousing different viewpoints, but if we do, we’re obligated to keep it civil please!


Alex Jones torments families of Sandy Hook victims with lies in order to enrich himself. Private social platforms can not only choose to not to be complicit in this evil--they have an obligation not to be complicit.

This is not a close call.


The guidelines specifically ask you not to do what you did with this Sarah Jeong and Quinn Jones thing: Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.


I think the totality of my comment makes clear the relevance. In the matter of interpreting historical internet posts and judging whether the speaker should be censored or punished for them, or not, the lines are quite blurred.

Is there not something worth discussing here — as we examine the reactions to Sarah Jeong, Quinn Jones, Alex Jones.... to me these are all part of the same movement. By which I don’t mean necessarily something explicitly planned and orchestrated, but rather shifting public consensus on public discourse, what consequences should be dealt, and how the visceral response in these cases may be weaponized and subverted.

Upon second thought though, perhaps the more apt comparison is Roseanne Barr. I certainly agree that bringing up Jeong did not result any useful dialog on the topic, so I’ll be more careful about that in the future.


lines are quite blurred.

They aren't. The lines between a professional conspiracy- and snake-oil-monger, a person whose friendship with Nazis made them lose a job offer and a person against whom a targeted smear campaign failed are not at all blurred. These things are not closely related and piling Roseanne Barr on to this blob of amorphous grievance-gunk just makes it more sealion-shaped and sealion-sized. It's not a good HN topic - polite flamebaiting is still flamebaiting.


Even more clearly, Apple choosing to be selective about who they'll retain in their podcast catalog is not at all the same discussion as The New York Times choosing who to hire. This is practically the textbook case of an unrelated controversy derailing a thread.


That's true, the distinction is greater than I made it out to be.

On the other hand, derailment was a serious concern during the industrial revolution and some thread-workers violently opposed new, disruptive technology. This is a technology site. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica, all this has happened before and will happen again and is totally not unrelated.


Conceded.


My comment was in relation to the waterfall effect which proceeded Apple’s decision to delist InfoWars, not to Apple exercising editorial control over its store, which IMO by itself would be entirely unnewsworthy.


If you don’t see any parallels to the NYT firing a new tech editor based on her offensive tweets and the NYT not firing a new tech editor for her offensive tweets, then I can certainly understand how you don’t see any relation to InfoWars being censored, and I won’t press the point.

It seems like you feel like this is all so cut and dry, however the public discussion on all sides would seem to discredit that notion. It’s what NYMag calls, “on the one hand, utterly obvious ... and at the same time muddled and thorny.” [1]

I had to Google the sealion reference, I think you’ve quite abused the term. [2]

[1] - http://nymag.com/selectall/2018/02/why-quinn-norton-and-the-...

[2] - https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/sea-lioning



Pointing out that ToS violations aren't being handled consistently is entirely on topic.

The guidelines mention:

> Please don't use Hacker News primarily for political or ideological battle.

We should allow discussion of hate speech, regardless of ideology, on a thread about how hate speech is handled online.


> I don’t know anything at all about Jeong, other than some highly... erm... problematic old tweets.

That's the power of a smear campaign, right? Planting a negative perception in people who previously had no attitude about a person. I recommend researching a bit before repeating the message of the campaign ("racist tweets"). Jeong is okay.


[flagged]


Jeong is off topic for this thread, but that is an incredibly uncharitable description of what turned out to be a rather interesting piece of writing.


>"Various campaigns have been trying to downrank, delist, or demonetize sites like InfoWars or Breitbart."

Good, because those sites are absolutely notorious for spreading lies and false rumors that have caused documented harm to innocent people, under the guise of "asking questions".

It is way too easy to spread lies in simple black/white slogan form. They embed themselves and influence opinion. It takes much more effort to disprove them, because reality is complicated and nuanced.

There's your asymmetric information warfare. The virulent hatemongers know that people want simple scapegoats, and they play to that, with anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-tolerance retoric.

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