Suspensions of Infowars sparks debate on freedom of expression and hate speech

6 Aug 2018

Reuters' Rich McKay reports that Apple, YouTube, and others drop conspiracy theorist Alex Jones because the Infowars author 'had broken community standards'. McKay quoted Facebook as saying it removed Alex Jones'  pages 'for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies'. In response to the takedown, CNN published We need to talk about Alex Joneswith LZ Granderson saying 'I don't like what Alex Jones says, but I like that I can call him an idiot'. Kelly Hawes in the Rushville Republican also highlights freedom of expression, starting his article Free speech should apply to everyone by writing 'The solution to our broken public discourse is not to ban guys like Alex Jones from social media.' A similar debate is ongoing with the British case of Tommy Robinson, released from jail after what The Atlantic called The British Trial That Became a Free-Speech Crusade for the Right.

Explore the issues

Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.

One of the main sociocultural issues is content policy, often addressed from the standpoints of human rights (freedom of expression and the right to communicate), government (content control), and technology (tools for content control). Discussions usually focus on three groups of content:

 

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