Infowars Makes a Stealth Return to YouTube
The conspiracy-mongers were supposedly kicked off of YouTube and Facebook, too. But someone—well, lots of someones—keeps sneaking Alex Jones videos back onto the social networks.
Infowars may be banned from YouTube and Facebook, but Alex Jones’ conspiracy-mongers still linger. A squadron of fans and grifters upload Infowars every episode.
Facebook and YouTube barred Infowars and its founder Alex Jones in early August, citing the conspiracy outlet’s pattern of promoting hate speech and inciting violence, particularly against minorities and opponents of the Trump administration. But the site’s conspiracy videos are still making their way online. Some of the videos are uploaded by Infowars fans. Others videos come from spam accounts, apparently trying to leech views off Infowars fans. And a large subset come from smaller Infowars-owned accounts that were unaffected by the ban.
At the time of the bans, some Infowars acolytes said they didn’t need the social media giants.
“The censorship of Infowars just vindicates everything we’ve been saying,” Jones tweeted after the bans. (He has since been banned from Twitter). “Now, who will stand against Tyranny and who will stand for free speech? We’re all Alex Jones now.”
Others claimed the bans would make Infowars more popular than ever, a claim that fell flat when Infowars’ viewership dropped in the wake of the YouTube expulsion.
But other Infowars personalities seemed to anticipate their reliance on large social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Shortly before the YouTube ban was announced in August, Infowars reporter Jake Lloyd told viewers to follow Infowars’ backup accounts in the event of the main channel’s deletion.
These splinter accounts, which represent individual Infowars programs or use soundalike names like “NewsWars,” account for tens of thousands of followers on Facebook.
The NewsWars Facebook page, which has more than 33,000 followers, racked up 3.9 million video views between Infowars’ August Facebook ban and November, according to The Washington Post. Infowars owns the NewsWars site, and many of the videos on its Facebook page are Infowars clips, including those that amplify the same hate speech that got Infowars banned in the first place, the Daily Dot previously reported.
Other official Facebook pages promote individual Infowars shows, but cross-post clips from a host of Infowars personalities. A page for the show War Room has more than 44,000 followers, while a page for the site’s David Knight Show has more than 25,000 followers. One recent clip promoted on the David Knight Show’s Facebook page include racist fearmongering about different races’ “fertility rates.”
A Facebook representative said the company had no information to share about individual pages.
Infowars clips and full episodes have also proliferated across YouTube, despite a ban. Some Infowars fan channels like “Infowars Army” upload these videos by the hundreds. Most videos have fewer than 1,000 views. But a small subgenre of Infowars-ripping channels make it possible to view virtually all recent Infowars content on YouTube, despite the ban.
“There’s clearly a capriciousness by which YouTube enforces their standards generally and despite some steps to clean things up, plenty of room for improvement,” Laura Keiter, communications director for the watchdog group Media Matters said.
But not all the Infowars impersonators are superfans. There’s real money to be made in uploading episodes of shows with a large fan base. Some accounts reviewed by The Daily Beast uploaded excerpts of Infowars shows, then encouraged viewers to click links to other websites to view the full episodes.
YouTube’s policy is to remove channels that are dedicated to uploading Infowars videos without adding any additional commentary or context, a Google spokesperson told The Daily Beast. In theory, this policy should allow news organizations to upload Infowars excerpts alongside commentary, or to illustrate newsworthy information about the channel.
But YouTube a Media Matters video about Infowars that would appear to pass YouTube’s guidelines.
In April 2018, YouTube pulled the group’s video video titled “What Alex Jones said about the Sandy Hook shooting.” Jones claimed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax, and is currently being sued by the parents of the children murdered in the attack. On Friday, the parents won a victory over Jones when a judge allowed them to access to internal Infowars documents.
YouTube restored the Media Matters video after social media backlash, but issued a “strike” against the video just this week, writing that “upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines,” a Media Matters spokesperson told The Daily Beast. An account that receives three strikes over three months will be terminated.
YouTube rejected Media Matters’ appeal over the strike, but left the video up, the spokesperson said.
“In the case of Media Matters’ educational video that was penalized for a second time,” Keiter said, “it’s completely preposterous to think, particularly given the amount of actual white supremacist propaganda that exists on YouTube such as well documented accounts like Red Ice TV with hundreds of thousands of followers, that a compilation of some of Alex Jones’ worst attacks on Sandy Hook victims and their families which Media Matters created following news of defamation lawsuits against Jones, would be flagged as violating YouTube guidelines.”
Meanwhile videos with long, unedited Infowars clips pushing conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook shooting remain live on other channels. They’ve been there for years, just one search away.