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Twitter suspends Infowars host Alex Jones' ability to tweet

Twitter follows the lead of other social media platforms.

Alex Jones gestures with his hands at his broadcast desk.

Twitter suspended Infowars' Alex Jones' ability to tweet.

Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Twitter has cut off Alex Jones from key functions of his account after the founder and star of conspiracy site Infowars violated another Twitter policy.

Jones' account has been placed in read-only mode for seven days, Twitter confirmed Tuesday, meaning he can still browse Twitter posts, but can't interact with other users by tweeting, retweeting or liking posts. Jones was also required to delete the offending tweet, which included a snippet of video, Twitter said.

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The action comes about a week after Twitter began clamping down on the right-wing conspiracy theorist, deleting several of Jones' and Infowars' tweets and videos.

As of Wednesday morning, the video at the heart of the suspension was still live on Periscope, the livestreaming app owned by Twitter. But after a CNET story called attention to that situation, Twitter suspended Infowars' Periscope and Twitter accounts. In the video, Jones encouraged viewers to "have their battle rifles" ready, amid statements like "mainstream media is the enemy" and "now it's time to act on the enemy" and references to antifa, a far-right term for antifascist activists.

Jones has been widely criticized for promoting untrue, virulent hypotheses about tragic events, like the 2001 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center in New York that killed nearly 3,000 people and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 26 students and staff.

Several Silicon Valley giants -- Facebook, Google's YouTube, Apple, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vimeo and Spotify -- banned Infowars from their platforms. The tech giants said that they don't tolerate hate speech and that Infowars violated their community standards and guidelines.

Twitter initially resisted calls to remove Infowars content. CEO Jack Dorsey even appeared on conservative commentator Sean Hannity's radio show last week to argue that InfoWars hadn't violated Twitter's rules.

"We'll enforce if he does," Dorsey said at the time. "And we'll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren't artificially amplified."

Eventually, Twitter ended up deleting some of Jones' and Infowars' posts. Jones didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Unanswered questions

The suspension comes as Silicon Valley grapples with the power of its platforms, which have become some of the world's most influential distributors of news and information. Facebook, Google and Twitter have been under intense criticism, for instance, for failing to prevent abuse by Russian trolls who used their services to meddle in the 2016 US election and to sow discord among voters.

Leaders from those companies, reportedly including Dorsey, are expected to testify before Congress next month to address those issues.

Jones' suspension still leaves many questions unanswered, including how Twitter will deal with him after the seven days are up. The decisions of the tech platforms to ban or suspend Jones are also likely to stir scrutiny from critics who see the penalties as internet censorship.

Tech CEOs have long wanted to avoid making these types of decisions. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said he doesn't feel comfortable with his company being the "arbiters of truth." But the situation with Jones -- because of his influence and the size of his audience -- was a high-profile case that forced the tech giants to reckon with the bounds of free speech on their platforms.

Dorsey will be on the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday to talk about the decision to give Jones a "time-out," anchor Lester Holt tweeted.

First published Aug. 14 at 6:08 p.m. PT.
Updates, Aug. 15 at 7:49 a.m.: Adds information throughout; 9:37 a.m.: Includes information about the Jones video still being live on Periscope; 1:28 p.m.: Adds that Twitter suspended Infowars' Periscope and Twitter accounts.

Infowars and Silicon Valley: Everything you need to know about the tech industry's free speech debate.

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