Twitter CEO defends decision not to ban Alex Jones, Infowars

Jones, who has 858,000 followers on Twitter, has built up his profile while promulgating conspiracy theories. (Screengrab)
Updated 08 August 2018
0

Twitter CEO defends decision not to ban Alex Jones, Infowars

  • Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify took down over the past week material published by Jones
  • Twitter did not want to take “one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories”

LONDON: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company’s decision not to ban right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his “Infowars” show, as many other social media platforms have done, saying he did not break any rules.
Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify took down over the past week material published by Jones, reflecting more aggressive enforcement of their hate speech policies after rising online backlash and raising pressure on Twitter to do the same.
Jones’ Facebook account has also been suspended for 30 days but he still has a “verified” Twitter account. A separate Twitter account for “Infowars” is also still running.
“We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday,” Dorsey said in a series of tweets late Tuesday . “We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does.”
Dorsey said Twitter did not want to take “one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.”
He said he wanted the company to avoid succumbing to outside pressure but instead impartially enforce straightforward principles “regardless of political viewpoints.” He also linked to a blog post Tuesday by the company’s vice president for trust and safety, Del Harvey, outlining the company’s policies.
“Twitter is reflective of real conversations happening in the world and that sometimes includes perspectives that may be offensive, controversial, and/or bigoted,” she said. “While we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we prohibit targeted behavior that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others.”
Jones, who has 858,000 followers on Twitter, has built up his profile while promulgating conspiracy theories, including the claim that the 9/11 terror attacks were carried out by the government. He is perhaps most notorious for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook mass school shooting, which left 26 children and adults dead, was a hoax and that the surviving relatives are paid actors. Family members of some of the victims are suing Jones for defamation.
Dorsey said that it’s up to journalists to “document, validate, and refute” rumors and sensationalized issues spread by accounts like Jones’s so “people can form their own opinions.”
Twitter is taking other steps besides account deletions to combat misuse in its battle to rein in hate and abuse even as it tries to stay true to its roots as a bastion of free expression. Dorsey acknowledged last year that the company hasn’t done enough to curb such abuse and protect users.
Jones says his shows, which are broadcast on radio and online platforms and had been available on YouTube, reached at least 70 million people a week. It’s unclear how big his audience is now after the latest bans.


Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

Updated 16 January 2019
0

Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

  • The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties

TEHRAN: A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television’s English-language service has been arrested after flying into the US, the broadcaster reported Wednesday. US law enforcement agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin of New Orleans, comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties, previously used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.
Iran’s state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.
“We will not spare any legal action” to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran’s state IRIB broadcaster.
Press TV said Hashemi, who has worked at the state broadcaster service for 25 years, had been arrested after arriving at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday. Jebeli alleged that her son, Reza Hashemi, had been arrested as well.
Jeff Lea, a spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport, didn’t immediately return phone or email messages from The Associated Press. Rebecca Wu, St. Louis’ FBI spokeswoman, directed questions to the press office at FBI headquarters.
A call to FBI headquarters rang unanswered early Wednesday morning. The bureau also did not immediately respond to a written request for comment. Several local jails around Washington that house federal inmates also said they did not have her in custody.
Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding US Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi’s arrest indicates the “apartheid and racist policy” of the Trump administration.
“We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition,” Ghasemi said.
There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for Internet freedom and has done work for the US government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him.