Right-wing broadcaster Alex Jones announced Saturday evening that YouTube had frozen his video channel and would delete it on Sunday, after CNN pursued the social media giant and its advertisers.
The announcement came just hours after CNN published a story, “Advertisers flee InfoWars founder Alex Jones’ YouTube channel,” in which journalists Paul P. Murphy and Gianluca Mezzofiore approached companies to explain why their ads were showing up on Alex Jones’s channel.
Murphy and Mezzofiore also asked YouTube why it had not filtered out certain advertisers from showing up on the channel due to its “offensive content.”
The CNN article reads less like coverage of news and more like a chronicle of an activist campaign to damage Jones’s channel. “Many of the brands — including Nike, Moen, Expedia, Acer, ClassPass, Honey, Alibaba and OneFamily — have suspended ads on InfoWars’ channels after being contacted by CNN for comment,” the authors noted.
On Saturday evening, Jones tweeted: “The Alex Jones channel with billions of views is frozen. We have been told it will be deleted tomorrow and all 33 thousands videos will be erased.”
Jones referred to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing group whose overly-broad lists of “hate” groups have provoked criticism by conservatives, and have led to innocent people being targeted — literally. (The domestic terrorist who tried to carry out a mass shooting at the offices of the Family Research Council in 2012 told interrogators that he had targeted the organization after he read that it was “anti-gay” at the SPLC website.)
The SPLC mentioned Jones in a Feb. 23 article attacking some right-wing outlets for spreading a conspiracy theory that some of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who had appeared in numerous television interviews since the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, were actors coached to deliver anti-gun messages. The SPLC also describes Jones as “almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.”
CNN reported on Feb. 24 that YouTube had punished the Alex Jones Channel for a video titled, “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines In TV Interview.” Hogg, a student at the high school, has been among the most strident gun control activists in the days since the shooting, vowing not to return to school until new gun control laws were passed, and accusing National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch — a mother of two — of not caring about children.
In response, InfoWars published an article accusing CNN of conducting a “campaign to ban conservative media.” The author, Paul Joseph Watson, defended the Alex Jones Channel’s video: “The videos in question did not claim the school shooting didn’t happen or that the victims were ‘actors,’ as CNN has falsely misrepresented. The videos questioned if some of the prominent students who are now publicly leading a nationwide campaign for gun control were being coached on what to say.”
Watson continued: “The ability to question the statements of public figures on television is part of basic free expression under the First Amendment, and does not constitute ‘bullying’ or ‘harassment,’ as YouTube claims.”
CNN once seemed to agree. Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media analysis show, Reliable Sources, wrote an op-ed in November, “Whose freedom is it?“, arguing that the First Amendment did not just protect citizens against government censorship, but was also relevant to users of social media networks.
What do you think about Jones’ channel being removed from the world’s number 1 video service? Will this harm his brand? YouTube had denied telling Jones that his channel would be removed, but the proof will come if, by tomorrow morning, his channel is completely gone.