Alex Jones has been kicked off of virtually every major website he used to promote his conspiracy theories. One remains, though. Twitter continues to protect Jones, with founder Jack Dorsey maintaining that it’s better for Jones to maintain his presence and have his claims refuted publicly than to ban him.
Dorsey has also maintained that Jones hasn’t actually broken any of Twitter‘s rules. A lot of users of the major social platform don’t agree, and they’re diving into a new plan to try to pressure Jack to remove InfoWars propaganda from the site.
Shannon Coulter began promoting a new way to fight Twitter’s sheltering of InfoWars this weekend, and it’s taking off.
Good morning! To encourage Twitter to drop Alex Jones, I just blocked the Twitter accounts of every Fortune 500 company w/ a Twitter presence. Ready to mass block Twitter's most lucrative advertisers with me? There are three quick & easy ways. Instructions are in this thread.
— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) August 12, 2018
In short, she used an app called BlockTogether to create a custom block list of Fortune 500 companies, such as Walmart, Apple, Amazon, AT&T, CVS, General Motors, Kroger, Target, Lowe’s, and many more. You can see her entire list here. Those who want to join her boycott can block these companies along with her, either by following her custom link here to automatically block the whole list or by adding them to a block list manually.
These companies are on Twitter to engage with a customer base. If they find themselves unable to reach Twitter users with advertisements and promotions and see that their content isn’t reaching as many users, they have to change something at their end. Imagine if even a few hundred of the most profitable companies in America decided that Twitter was no longer profitable for them, and ceased to buy advertising through the social network.
Coulter’s boycott is already growing to massive proportions — by Tuesday morning, she was able to share that over 48k people have subscribed to her block list. It’s impossible to guess how many have manually blocked the list, but the original tweet describing the plan has reached about 96k likes and shares.
Major social influencers like Wil Wheaton are helping to promote the boycott.
Actors and other Hollywood names are joining in, passing the idea to their millions of followers, as are authors and influencers in the science and education fields.
I stand w/ @shannoncoulter. #GrabYourWallet has been very effective so I've joined #BlockParty500. I believe in a strong 1st Amendment, even for persons who spew toxic ideas. There is no reason to FUND propaganda, disinformation or hatred. Thanks Shannon for intelligent activism. https://t.co/yWym2ukwbd
— Will Scheffer (@schefferwill) August 13, 2018
— Alafair Burke (@alafairburke) August 14, 2018
This is AWESOME. If you haven't been following, Twitter won't drop bigot and dangerous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. To show twitter we want them to, we are hitting them in the wallet and blocking Twitter's biggest advertisers. Do this. #BlockParty500 https://t.co/ilhmWNQH0N
— Amir Talai (@AmirTalai) August 12, 2018
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) August 14, 2018
— Bill Corbett (@BillCorbett) August 13, 2018
— Lucianne Walkowicz (@shaka_lulu) August 13, 2018
Why are so many people fighting to have InfoWars removed from Twitter? There’s a widespread feeling that Alex Jones is getting special protection while causing measurable and demonstrable harm. Jack has said Alex Jones doesn’t break Twitter’s rules.
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Accounts like Jones' can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
However, Twitter‘s Hateful Conduct Policy says this:
You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.
Alex Jones tweets just over the past months include: a glorification of Tommy Robinson “knocking out” a Muslim, and an anti-Trump protester being kicked in the groin — Jones calls these ‘karma’; calling the appointment of a descendant of immigrants to a senior British cabinet position “a classic takeover“; and claiming that Muslims have a mental illness problem because the Koran promotes “human inbreeding,” just to name a few.
Back to Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy, which fortunately offers some clarification on what constitutes Hateful Conduct for the purposes of the site:
Examples of what we do not tolerate includes, but is not limited to behavior that harasses individuals or groups of people with:
violent threats; wishes for the physical harm, death, or disease of individuals or groups; references to mass murder, violent events, or specific means of violence in which/with which such groups have been the primary targets or victims; behavior that incites fear about a protected group; repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.
Is Alex Jones’ public conduct really harmful, or just an annoyance? According to the Times of Israel, the parents of one child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre have had to move seven times to escape harassment as conspiracy theorists who buy into Jones’ propaganda about the mass murder have repeatedly published their address, leading to harassment.
Twitter has not responded to the #BlockParty500 boycott yet, but it’s growing at an incredible rate in just a few days. If advertisers start to notice a drop in engagement, this boycott could be the pressure required to remove Alex Jones from the last major social media site that still allows him to spread his hate-filled propaganda freely.