Twitter has permanently banned Alex Jones for "abusive behavior," the social media company announced Thursday after completing a new review of the conspiracy theorist's activities.
Unlike other companies, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had initially maintained that Jones should be allowed a place on the platform, allegedly overruling his staff on the matter. This was apparently little comfort to Jones, who attempted to confront Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on data privacy in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Jones had a "heated exchange" with a reporter, and decided to stream it on Twitter. This ultimately led to the ban, according to CNBC.
I've previously defended the idea of letting insane people continue to say crazy things on social media because I'm concerned the rules are too unclear, and too likely to be enforced unevenly. Both Dorsey and Sandberg have described their platforms as akin to the public square, and the true public square is, barring a few exceptions, a place for all voices.
But, fine. Twitter belongs to Dorsey, and if he doesn't want to give a platform to Jones, that's his right. Conservatives who have suddenly decided that it would be a good thing for the government to regulate social media like a public utility are engaged in blatant hypocrisy. They are sacrificing their principles, if they ever had them in the first place. The government should not tell private companies how to operate their businesses.
That said, no one should mistake this ban as some kind of huge victory over Jones, or alternative facts, or harassment. Jones isn't really going away—the media won't stop talking about him. His altercation with Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) after the hearing is pure entertainment gold, and no one can help themselves and just look away. According to a Sprout Social mentions report from Tuesday, Jones' named was searched on Twitter more often than Dorsey's, and he was a top search on Google as well.
Private entities—Facebook, Twitter, The New Yorker—have no obligation to extend a platform to awful people. But de-platforming these figures is not the same thing as making their ideas go away, and we shouldn't treat Jones' ouster as some sort of #resistance victory.
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