Alex Jones Demands His Infowars Followers Rise Up and Buy More Merchandise

Over the past several days Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify have removed most of Mr. Jones’s programming from their services in a sweeping effort to rein in those who traffic in online misinformation that draws hundreds of thousands of followers and results in harassment and threats to their targets. Stitcher, LinkedIn and Pinterest have also removed Infowars content.

.. YouTube’s termination of Mr. Jones’s channel cost him access to his 2.4 million subscribers and resulted in the removal of all his past videos. Those videos had amassed billions of views, in part because YouTube continued to recommend them to users who had shown interest in conservative topics.

.. Mr. Jones has been trying to compensate by promoting his website and mobile app. On Tuesday, after news of Mr. Jones’s bans spread, Infowars was Apple’s fourth most popular news app, outranking those from every mainstream news media organization. Before the ban, it ranked 33rd on average since July 12.

.. He suggested that it was his support for President Trump, not his spreading of falsehoods, that led to him being “de-platformed.”

“This is a war on free speech,” Mr. Jones said. “This is what the corporate media is doing in America because it’s afraid of new independent media and asking questions.”

.. Facebook removed Mr. Jones’s pages for violating its policies by “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube terminated Mr. Jones’s channel for repeatedly violating its policies, including its prohibition on hate speech. Spotify cited its own prohibition on hate speech as the reason for removing a podcast by Mr. Jones.
.. Indeed, Infowars’ own website says in its terms of service that the company “may review and delete any content you post on the website or elsewhere utilizing our services or system if we determine, in our sole discretion, that the content violates the rights of others, is not appropriate for the website, or otherwise violates this agreement.”
.. While private companies can choose what to take down from their sites, the fact that social media platforms like Facebook have become indispensable platforms for the speech of billions means that they should resist calls to censor offensive speech
.. The recent decision by Facebook and YouTube to take down Alex Jones’s content may have provided a quick solution to a challenging situation, but encouraging these companies to silence individuals in this way will backfire.”.. Mr. Jones was defiant on his program Monday, saying past efforts to screen offensive broadcasts have “only made us stronger.”

.. “But it has not allowed us to reach a lot of new people,” he continued. “That’s why you have to understand now that Infowars is the most censored program in the world — because we know the truth.”

.. Over two decades, Mr. Jones has built a profitable business selling diet supplements, survivalist gear, and air and water filtration equipment as he spread bizarre theories, including that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job, that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a government-backed hoax, and that various government-orchestrated plots are responsible for poisoning Americans’ water, air and food. Mr. Jones promotes himself and Infowars as near-solitary truth tellers in a news landscape dominated by left-leaning “corporatist” media — even though the popular Drudge Report website broadcast his show on Monday.

.. Now, what he calls his “de-platforming” has only increased his sense of grievance, and that of his followers — even as it shrinks his reach before the November midterm elections.

.. “I knew what the enemy was doing — I knew their battle plan, I made the conscious decision to draw their fire,” he said on his show Monday. “When you see the Alamo assaulted and myself probably destroyed, I’ve been telling you this for years,” he said, adding: “Remember Infowars. Remember free speech.”

.. So far, Mr. Trump, who praised Mr. Jones during an appearance on his radio show during the presidential campaign, has remained silent as Mr. Jones issues appeals to Trump supporters.

.. On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. posted on Twitter that Mr. Murphy was “A Democrat Senator openly admitting that Big Tech’s censorship campaign is really about purging all conservative media. How long before Big Tech and their Democrat friends move to censor and purge Breitbart News, Daily Caller and other conservatives voices from their platforms?”

The removal of his content comes as Mr. Jones faces multiple defamation lawsuits for claims he spread on Infowars, including by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims, who are pursuing three separate lawsuits against him.

.. encourage his followers to migrate to his Infowars website, where he has posted the content removed by other platforms. He is also asking followers to donate to him — and buy his merchandise.

.. “Don’t forget the financial support; that is the strongest thing you can do to make sure that we continue on and are strong in the fight,” he said. Referring listeners to his online store, he said, “Go there today and send them a strong message that you stand for the First Amendment, you stand for us and get air filtration, water filtration, optics, preparedness gear, high quality storable foods, supplements that are so good for you and your family.

“Feed your gladiator,” he urged.

Content isn’t king

subscription streaming has more or less ended the strategic importance of music to tech companies. In the past, any music you bought for your iPod had proprietary DRM and could only be played on Apple devices

.. Your music library kept you on a device. With streaming these issues mostly go away.

.. if you do switch to a different service you’re not giving up tracks you’ve paid money for, just a list of your favourites. Switching became easy.

.. Since music no longer stops people from switching between platforms, it’s gone from being a moat .. to a low-margin check-box feature.

.. A Taylor Swift exclusive for Apple Music might drive some iPhone sales, just as a cool new ad campaign might, but there’s no strategic lever here – no lock-in. 

.. whenever I talk to music people or book people, very quickly the conversation becomes a music industry conversation or a book industry conversation. What matters for music are artists and touring and labels and so on, and what matters for books are writers and publishers and rights and Amazon’s bargaining power in books and so on. These aren’t tech conversations.

.. The big tech platform companies rolled into these industries and changed everything, but then moved on to bigger things.

.. Amazon has a big ebooks business, but Prime and perhaps Alexa are the strategic levers.

.. Tech needed content to make their devices viable, but having got the content (by any means necessary), and with it of course completely resetting the dynamics of the industry, tech outgrew music and books and moved on to bigger opportunities.

..  the shows that are watched mainly because they’re broadcast at 8pm on Saturday will suffer, and so will the channels that are watched because they’re high up on the program guide. Channel brands, shows and episodes are unbundled. We’ve been talking about this in theory for over a decade, but finally, praxis is here.

.. Amazon and Netflix have entered TV content creation and ownership in ways and on a scale that no-one from tech ever did for music or books. Amazon did try to get into book publishing and has a significant self-publishing arm, but it had little success recruiting existing mainstream authors

.. neither Apple nor Spotify created a record label. In TV, though, Amazon and Netflix are already spending more on commissioning original and exclusive content than many traditional channel brands.

.. Cancel the subscription delivery service and you lose access to all Amazon TV shows.

.. For Google and Facebook, there’s no subscription to cancel – there’s no binary (renew/don’t renew, cancel/don’t cancel) decision you might take that would cut off your access to that great TV show. You don’t close your Facebook account – you just go there less. You might stop paying for the Youtube TV service, but that won’t cut off your access to any other part of Google – nor would anyone want it to – the purpose of these businesses is reach.

.. cancel Prime and you’d lose Amazon, but what do Google & FB have to cancel? Without some platform decision to lock you into, content is marketing, and revenue, but not a lever.

..  You pay an average of $700 or so every two years (i.e. $30/month) and Apple gives you a phone. Buy an Android instead and you lose access to the (hypothetical) great Apple television service. This is why people argue that Apple should buy Netflix.

.. From a pure M&A perspective, buying Netflix and immediately limiting its business to Apple devices would halve its value – why buy a business and fire half the customers? Buying it without such a restriction would have no strategic value – Apple would just be buying marketing and revenue.

..  Apple has always preferred a very asset-light approach to things that are outside its core skills. It didn’t create a record label, or an MVNO, and it didn’t create a credit card for Apple Pay – it works with partners on the existing rails as much as possible

..  it does so with nothing like the kind of negotiating power that it had in iPod days – Amazon and Netflix (if not also Google and Facebook) have seen to that.

.. Part of ‘content is king’ was the idea that (at least in theory) content companies can withhold access to their libraries entirely, and in the past one might have presumed that that meant they had the power to kill any new service at birth. In reality, rights-holders have always had too strong a need for short-term revenue to forgo broad distribution, and few of them individually had a strong enough brand to extract a fee that was high enough to justify exclusivity.

.. They always have to take the cheques – individually to meet their bonus targets, and collectively to meet their earnings estimates.

.. for a media company to give a tech platform exclusivity is immediately to build up that platform’s power over the media companies.

.. Similar problems apply to the somewhat chimerical idea that content companies should go direct to consumer – few of them have the skills, fewer have the brand and content, and fewer still, again, have a shareholder structure to allow the short-term revenue hit.

.. the device is the phone and the network is the internet. The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it. Internet advertising will be bigger than TV advertising this year, and Apple’s revenue is larger than the entire global pay TV industry.

.. This is also why tech companies are even thinking about commissioning their own premium shows today – they are now so big that the budgets involved in buying or creating TV look a lot less daunting than they once did.