Infowars Under Attack... Major Brands Cut Ties With Alex Jones
When you think of the travel site Expedia or the shoe brand Nike, do you associate those products with Alex Jones?
It’s a safe bet that the answer is no, but that’s apparently what several companies are bizarrely afraid of, if the latest round of anti-right social media action is any sign.
“A number of the country’s major brands are pushing to remove their ads from YouTube channels for far-right website Infowars and its founder Alex Jones, saying they were unaware the ads were placed there,” The Hill explained.
Jones, of course, is a controversial far-right pundit who has been associated with many conspiracy theories over the years. There’s no doubt that he’s outside of the mainstream, but Infowars also features many other conservative commentators with a variety of views, including Paul Joseph Watson and Millie Weaver.
Advertisements on YouTube are served like they are on almost any major website: An algorithm automatically rotates ads to people who it predicts might be interested in various products. This could be because they showed interest in the brand before, or are in a broad demographic that the company markets toward.
In other words, the ads are not hand-picked for any specific content, but a wide number of advertisements might appear to visitors when they browse YouTube.
It looks like the companies that are now causing a kerfuffle because their ads appeared on the same page as Alex Jones didn’t have a problem with the arrangement until CNN brought it to their attention, essentially creating a scandal out of thin air.
“CNN reported that ads from several major companies and organizations — including Nike, 20th Century Fox, the Mormon Church, Expedia, Alibaba and the National Rifle Association — were being featured on Infowars’s channels on the platform,” stated The Hill.
“Many of the brands said they were unaware of the situation and canceled their ads on the channel after CNN reached out for comment. Several said they have reached out to YouTube about the situation,” the news outlet continued.
Now, those companies are complaining that the popular Google-owned video service is doing exactly what it was designed to do: Give viewers a wide range of content, and connect those users with relevant ads so that creators are compensated for producing videos.
Even people who are into conspiracy theories presumably buy athletic shoes and airline tickets from time to time. It’s win-win … or at least it was.
By singling out Infowars for simply having fringe opinions and cutting off their revenue stream, this move is setting an alarming precedent. Yes, many of the views held by Alex Jones are far out and even distasteful — but that isn’t illegal. Free speech should apply even to radical and unpopular opinions.
To be clear, advertisers should be able to pull their brands off of content if they wish. That is part of the free market, but the fact that so many of these companies weren’t even aware of the “problem” shows that this scandal is just a tempest in a teapot.
No sane person who sees a Nike ad show up on YouTube believes the brand is specifically endorsing a pundit on an unrelated video channel. This is just as silly as, say, boycotting a car dealer for advertising on the local news where a bystander drops a swear word. Everybody understands that ads are on a rotation and aren’t indelibly linked to content.
More and more, right-leaning voices are being silenced in a variety of ways. Alex Jones and his rants may be easy to dismiss right now, but the encroaching censorship does not stop with him.
Make no mistake, this tactic of economic bullying is part of a rising trend, and anyone who values diversity of opinions and the right for alternative speech to exist should start paying attention to where it’s headed.
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