YouTube punished Infowars for video on Parkland shooting survivors

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Infowars, a multimedia outlet popular with the far-right and famous for its conspiracy theories, is facing some pushback from the tech platforms that host its content. The latest controversy is related to Infowars’ videos about Parkland shooting in Florida as the tech companies continue to crackdown on fake news and hate speech. 

YouTube has given one strike to The Alex Jones Channel, Infowars’ largest YouTube channel, CNN reported Friday, citing an anonymous source familiar with the matter. If a YouTube account receives three strikes in three months, it is permanently banned, according to YouTube’s community guidelines. 

Jones put out a statement in the form of 14-minute video shared to Facebook shortly after CNN’s report. Jones claimed CNN is “openly lobbying to Congress for YouTube to completely remove Infowars,” as the video’s description reads. 

“They’re saying that I said no one was shot in Florida and that I put out videos saying they’re all crisis actors, which I’ve never said,” Jones said in the video, elaborating that his videos and others were only exploring the point that one student David Hogg is in the drama club.  

YouTube’s strike against Infowars was allegedly caused by a video titled “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines In TV Interview,” which featured Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor, interviewing with CNN affiliate KCBS. A conspiracy theory inaccurately casted Hogg as a crisis actor and not actually a student at the school. 

“Is that David Hogg being told what to say? Struggling to give out his lines?” asked host Owen Shroyer. 

“Again, folks, I didn’t want to do this. These are kids. This is awful, but there it is, and there’s more,” he said. 

YouTube removed the video from Infowars’ YouTube account on Wednesday due to harassment and bullying, according to CNN. This is far from the only fake news video on YouTube, and the platform has focused on combating the issue. The three-strike policy is part of that effort. Policing it is with human moderators, assisted by artificial intelligence and user reporting, is another. 

For example, the video claiming Hogg to be a crisis actor is still available on War Room, a part of Infowars that is typically hosted by Shroyer.

Image: youtube screenshot

As of Friday afternoon, the video received more than 12,000 views. War Room’s account has almost 37,000 subscribers, which is far less than The Alex Jones Channel’s more than 2.26 million subscribers. 

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jones’ comment on CNN’s report said he is looking to sue media companies for reports like this one from CNN. 

“Let me tell CNN and let me tell YouTube … I am going to start suing media companies and organizations. I’ve met with all the lawyers. It’s all lined up,” Jones said on the video. 

Periscope, Twitter’s live-streaming service, also hosts a live version and saved copies of the same show. Mashable could not find a copy of the “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines in TV Interview.” 

We reached out to Twitter if it was taken down and if Periscope has reprimanded Infowars and its affiliates for violating its policies. 

For its part, Twitter publicly shared it has verified survivors of the Parkland shooting. 

While writing this piece, an episode of the War Room streamed live on Periscope. The host Shroyer listened to and talked over another student present in the Parkland shooting speaking about his experience. 

“Did he just say he was in the closet?” Shroyer interjected after the student described his experience hiding from the shooter. We can only hope Twitter puts the kibash on this type of behavior soon.

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