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How purging Alex Jones from social media could backfire spectacularly according to free speech advocates

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After Apple removed five podcasts by talk show host Alex Jones and his site Infowars, other platforms swiftly followed. On Monday, Jones’ content was wiped from Facebook and he was banned by YouTube. Jones lost 2.4 million subscribers when YouTube deleted his account. Spotify is also barring Jones from posting.

The social media giants were largely applauded for scrubbing Jones’ offensive content from their platforms. Over the years, Jones has built a media empire promoting everything from 9/11 conspiracy theories to the false claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was staged with crisis actors, for which he’s being sued by parents of the children killed there.

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While Jones’ content can clearly be viewed as offensive and harmful to the public discourse, civil liberties advocates cautioned that restrictions on speech can backfire. The decision to block Jones is not a breach of his first amendment rights—after all, these are private companies—but may nevertheless have negative repercussions.

“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,” Vera Eidelman, fellow with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, tells Raw Story.

“The recent decision by Facebook and YouTube to take down Alex Jones’ content may have provided a quick solution to a challenging situation, but encouraging these companies to silence individuals in this way will backfire,” she noted.

“Whether out of distaste for hateful speech or inaccurate content, they will get it wrong. We’ve already seen it go wrong when Facebook silenced women of color for repeating word-for-word the vitriol thrown at them, without similarly censoring those who made the racist comments to begin with.”

“We also saw it go wrong when Facebook decided just last week to shut down a real protest event page for engaging in purported ‘inauthentic’ behavior.”

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2020 Election

So long, Steve King: 9-term white supremacist GOP congressman from Iowa loses primary

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U.S. Congressman Steve King, a nine-term Republican of Iowa, has just lost his primary to a GOP challenger. It's a huge fall from grace: In 2014 The Des Moines Register labeled the former earth-moving company founder a "presidential kingmaker."

But his racist, white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic, biphobic remarks and disturbing ties to far right radical European politicians – including one he endorsed who has ties to a neo-Nazi, finally caught up with him.

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When the president’s son-in-law truly was a great success

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For many Americans, the idea of the president tasking his son-in-law with solving national, even international, crises, seems problematic, if not absurd. But it happened once before and turned out to be the kind of “great success story” our current first family wants us to believe in again. Slightly over a century ago, as the US mobilized for the First World War, the nation faced devastating breakdowns of its financial and transport systems. In response, President Woodrow Wilson leaned heavily on his talented and experienced Treasury Secretary, William McAdoo, who just happened to be his son-in-law. Looking back at this episode tells us a lot about what makes for successful emergency management at the highest levels of government.

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Here are 7 ways Donald Trump is just like Henry Ford — and why that’s not good for American democracy

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On May 21, speaking at the Ford Motor Company’s Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Donald Trump paid his latest homage to Henry Ford, lauding the family’s “good bloodlines” with Ford’s great grandson sitting in the front row.

Ford, like Trump, was obsessed with bloodlines—with the idea that race and genetic origins determined who counted as the “best people.”

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