Alex Jones: A Case for Decentralized Censorship Resistant Blockchain Social Media Platforms

The Alex Jones Cross-Platform Ban Proves We Need Decentralized Social Networks

Alex Jones and his infamous “Info Wars” media empire have been censored or banned from multiple media platforms over the past week.

As reported by Info Wars editor Paul Joseph Watson, within a 12 hour period, Alex Jones was censored by Apple, Google (via YouTube), and Spotify. All Info Wars videos, podcasts, and advertisements were stripped away. Despite the fact that these are all separate companies, the bans took place in a short period of time.

Some are suggesting that this overnight ban indicates the need for a decentralized ecosystem.

“Alex Jones is the canary in the coal mine”, writes Robert Devoe on Blockonomi.com.

“This blatant act of censorship of political ideas is a perfect example why we need decentralized, censorship-resistant media, and why we simply cannot trust our media to an elite handful of social media oligarchs.”

Obviously, it’s a bit of a stretch to call Alex Jones’ ramblings “political ideas”. The man has become famous for spewing hate-fueled nonsense. He grew to notoriety following the Sandy Hook massacre – a massacre that Jones claims never took place. Because of Jones’ reporting, parents of the deceased children have been relentlessly harassed, with several parents even being forced to move away from Newtown, Connecticut.

At which point does free speech cross the line into hate speech? Should corporations have the power to ban people from their platform? Should we ban Alex Jones because of his controversial and violence-promoting views?

Should Corporations Be Allowed to Ban Content that Violates Their Terms of Service?

To 99% of the population, Alex Jones is a despicable human being.

But does that mean we should censor him?

Should a small number of companies control what views get posted online? Should companies have the ability to take away someone’s livelihood with the stroke of a pen?

The answer to these questions is, obviously, politically charged.

The Supreme Court recently decided that bakers can refuse to serve gay people. If a baker can refuse to serve a gay person because of the baker’s beliefs, then isn’t it fair for Google and other companies to ban hate speech from their platform? Are tech companies allowed to enforce their own terms of service – and ban people who violate those terms?

The social media websites didn’t ban Alex Jones for an arbitrary reason. They banned him because he repeatedly spewed hatred that violated the terms of service on the platforms:

“[Jones used] dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims, and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies,” explained one social media site justifying the ban.

Racially-motivated attacks are on the rise across the United States and the country has never been more divided. It’s not a stretch to claim that some of these attacks have been motivated by Jones and his hate speech.

The 28-year old man who attacked a mosque in Quebec City in 2017, for example, admitted that he was motivated by “right-wing commentators, alt-right figures, conspiracy theorists and President Trump”, including Alex Jones, Ben Shapiro, and other figures (both of whom were specifically mentioned during the trial as men who motivated the shooter to attack the mosque).

Twitter Has Not Yet Banned Alex Jones

Twitter, interestingly enough, is one media giant that has not yet banned Alex Jones.

Jack Dorsey (@Jack), CEO of Twitter, has come under fire for his decision to allow Jones to continue using his platform. In a series of tweets, Jack explained that Jones’ controversial content promotes journalists to “document, validate, and refuse such information directly so people can form their own opinions.”

Could a Decentralized Ecosystem Really Solve These Problems?

Robert Devoe at Blockonomi believes decentralization will help us avoid these problems in the future. Devoe claims that Jones is the canary in the coal mine. He’s the warning sign that corporations have too much centralized power over our information feeds.

Would a decentralized ecosystem really solve this problem? Would a decentralized ecosystem be censorship-resistant? Devoe certainly thinks to.

“Decentralized media [is] a potential cure for political censorship,” explains Devoe.

The reason is simple: centralized media outlets have no motivation to allow dissenting views on their platform. Just like in China, where online content that challenges the government is banned, centralized media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google can enforce their political views on the population by banning unwanted views.

“These particular companies have been banning and censoring content that is not in line with their political leanings for years. But this is the first time they have acted against an account that previously had millions of subscribers and was a frequent topic of discussion on late night TV.”

It’s unclear what Devoe is referring to. He doesn’t provide examples on which political content has been banned from these platforms in the past.

Part of the controversy comes from the fact that in America, hate speech is legal and protected by the Constitution. Other countries have freedom of speech – but not freedom to practice hate speech or incite violence against individuals. Social media platforms implement terms and conditions that restrict hate speech on the platform, and ban individuals that violate these terms.

In any case, there are two main decentralized media networks, both of which have become swarmed with alt-right conspiracy theorists in recent months.

Gab.ai is one platform. Gab.ai plans to use blockchain technology to encourage and shape user interactions with the site. The network is against censorship.

Minds.com is another decentralized media network. Minds.com aims to be censorship-free as long as no laws are broken. The network is powered by digital tokens that encourage users to submit valuable content.

Decentralized Networks Can Never Be Truly Censorship Free

Here’s the crux of the problem with decentralized networks: they’re never going to be truly free of censorship.

These networks will still need to ban content that violates the law. If someone is offering to kill someone for money on the platform, for example, then the network will ban that individual. That part is easy. It’s against the law in every country.

But what about “grey area” content? What about content that toes the line between legal and illegal. Can you post pictures of dead kids on the platform? It’s not necessarily illegal to do that. Can you make up “facts” about different races or religions in an effort to promote violence against those people?

This is why I’m skeptical about decentralized networks being a truly censorship-free environment. In any case, Devoe’s article goes into depth about how social media networks are “digging their own graves” by banning content that violates their terms of service – and how decentralized social networks could be the future.

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