WASHINGTON: Major technology companies, including Apple, Facebook and YouTube have deleted years of content from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars shows. Jones has, for years, spread a variety of false conspiracy theories. Among them, he claims that mass shootings such as the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut are an elaborate hoax perpetrated by the government to gain support for gun control.
Pizza and Pedophiles
Jones used his program to charge that the U.S, Government was responsible for the bombing in Oklahoma City and for the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He promulgates the idea that a child sex ring, involving Hillary Clinton, was operating out of the basement of a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.
One of his followers traveled to the restaurant from West Virginia with a rifle and fired shots. Jones says that students who were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida were simply “crisis actors.”
Now he is promoting the idea that special counsel Robert Mueller is involved with a child sex ring and child pornography. The list of such baseless conspiracy theories is a long one,
During the 2016’presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump appeared on Jones’ show Infowars, praising Jones’ reputation as “amazing.” This helped to dramatically increase the audience for Infowars.
Alex Jones and his small number of extremist defenders claim that his First Amendment right of free speech has been violated. This, however, is a complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment, which declares,
“Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech.”
Those Constitutional rights do not transfer to private companies such as Facebook, YouTube, and Apple. They are not legally required to house Jones material on their platforms.
Alex Jones facing multiple defamation claims
In a recent court case, four law professors who specialize in free speech issues said that Jones’ material was riddled with “absurd conspiracy theories” and urged a federal judge considering a lawsuit against Jones not to let him hide behind the First Amendment.
The law professors who signed the brief were Lyrissa B.Lidsky, dean of the University of Missouri School of Law, Tamara R. Piety at the University of Tulsa College of Law, David A.Strauss of the University of Chicago Law School, and Carlos A.Bali of Rutgers University.
The professors write:
“False speech does not serve the public interest the way that true speech does. And in fact there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact.”
The deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
WASHINGTON: This friend of the court brief was submitted in the case of Brennan Gilmore, a former State Department official, who attended last summer’s violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was on the street when James Alex Fields, Jr. drove his car into a crowd of protestors, killing Heather Hyer and injuring several others.
After Gilmore posted a video of the episode online and spoke about it to the media, Alex Jones published his own video on Infowars accusing Gilmore of being a plant from the CIA employed by billionaire George Soros.
Jones went on to suggest that Gilmore may have been involved on the attack on Ms. Heyer to bring about what he called “the downfall of Trump.”
In March, Gilmore sued Jones for defamation, arguing that he had suffered threats and harassment because of the report. Jones is also facing defamation lawsuits filed by the parents of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting for claiming the attack was a hoax.
But the Gilmore case is the first in which a judge, Norman K. Moon of Federal District Court in Charlottesville, has directly sought the opinion of First Amendment scholars.
The social boundaries of Free Speech or you can’t yell fire in a movie theater
While they acknowledged that the protection of speech is “a priority of the first order,” the First Amendment scholars note that since the Middle Ages defamation law has created “social boundaries about what speech is and is not acceptable.” It has also, they point out, long sought to balance the freedom of expression with the safeguarding of people’s reputations.
To do this, they noted, defamation statutes have always restricted some speech, especially for private figures such as Gilmore.
To Jones’ argument that the material contained in his conspiracy theories represented nothing more than his “opinion,” the First Amendment scholars said that to accept such a position under free speech protection:
“…would allow unscrupulous news organizations to couch their language as ‘opinion’ and to mask their meaning with implication and insinuation.”
This, they said, would leave readers and viewers
“clear as to the message but avoiding all liability for defamatory remarks. This should not be allowed and, in fact, is not allowed.”
Defamation case against Alex Jones is being considered in Austin, Texas.
It is being brought by the parents of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook attack, Noah Pozner. In the five years since the attack, death threats and online harassment have forced his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, to relocate seven times.
“I would love to go see my son’s grave and I don’t get to do that,” said Ms. De La Rosa.
Each time they have moved, online followers of Alex Jones have stalked the family and published their location.
Lawyers for the Pozners will try to convince a Texas judge that they and the families of eight other victims in the shooting that killed 20 first graders and six adults have a valid defamation claim against Alex Jones and his repeated declarations that the shooting was a hoax and never happened.
The Pozner family’s story in the court filings.
In 2015, after Mr. Pozner succeeded in having an Infowars video taken down from Jones’ You Tube channel,
“Mr. Jones went on an angry rant about me for nearly an hour. He also hosted a call with an obsessed fellow conspiracy theorist who issued a threat to me. Mr. Jones then showed his audience my personal information and maps associated with my family.”
Lucy Richards, an Infowars devotee, was arrested the next year for repeatedly threatening Mr.Pozner’s life. She was sentenced to five months in prison last year. As a condition of parole, a judge ordered that she cease consuming Infowars programming.
Alex Jones war against Sandy Hook families
Ms. De La Rosa says that,
“This type of misinformation is a bit of a societal crisis. This isn’t someone on a soapbox in Times Square spewing nonsense. It’s someone who every day generates income from his demonstrably false utterances.”
Starting right after the Sandy Hook shooting, Jones spread false claims that the Sandy Hook parents were “crisis actors” in a government conspiracy. A month after the shooting, he began broadcasting excerpts from Ms. De La Rosa’s interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, which was taped in front of the Edmond Town Hall in Newtown. Connecticut.
Jones falsely claimed that the interview was taped in a studio before a “green screen.”
In an April 2017 Infowars broadcast titled “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed.” In a clip of Ms. De La Rosa’s interview with Anderson Cooper, Jones says, that when Cooper turns his head, “his nose disappears repeatedly because the green screen isn’t set right.”
Conspiracy Theories: The right to lie vs. the right to not share those lies
How can we explain that Alex Jones has a small group of defenders, some of whom call themselves “conservative.” What It is they seek to “conserve” by defending lies is something they have failed to explain. Their motivation in urging private companies to provide a free platform for misinformation is something difficult to understand.
The First Amendment may protect Alex Jones’ right to lie, but it does not compel anyone to distribute those lies. Those who oppose “fake news” should be the most strenuous opponents of Alex Jones. Infowars may have made him rich, but it does significant harm to our society. The smaller the audience for such material, the better.
One of the first-grade victims at Sandy Hook was the grandson of a close friend. The grief felt by families of the victims of this horrible day is very much alive today, as it was then. The work of Alex Jones has subjected these grieving families to continued harassment from the viewers of Infowars.
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