The ACLU has finally come out in support of Infowars host Alex Jones, who was blacklisted from almost every social media platform over the course of a single day, warning that “hate speech” policies could be “misused and abused.”
The director of the ACLU’s new technology project, Ben Wizner, warned in a recent statement that banning figures such as Alex Jone across social media could set a worrying precedent. Wizner warned that the hate speech policies used to ban Jones could be “misused and abused” in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Wizner said that while companies have a constitutional right to regulate speech on their platforms, what counts as hate speech “turns out to be an extremely subjective term.” Wizner used the example of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which he implied that Sessions was sympathetic towards the KKK. “If [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, for example, were deciding what’s hate speech, he would be less likely to think KKK and more likely to think [Black Lives Matter],” Wizner said.
However, Wizner noted that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with Silicon Valley tech companies defining hate speech:“I have some of the same concerns about platforms making those decisions,” Wizner said. “Governments at least purport to be acting solely in the public interest, but platforms are making these decisions based on what’s in their financial interest,” he continued. “So their interest might be in avoiding controversy, but do we want the most important speech platforms in the world to avoid controversy?”
After Alex Jones and Infowars’ accounts were banned from various social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts and Pinterest, Jones turned to the free speech-centric platform Gab where he now regularly broadcasts a live stream of his Infowars programming. According to the CEO of Gab, Andrew Torba, a large number of new users have joined the platform following Jones decision to live stream on Gab.