After Jones’s main social media accounts were taken down last month, he shot back on his show: “The more I’m persecuted, the stronger I get.”
Experts say it may be too soon to assess what comes next for Jones. There is some evidence that barring hateful voices from social media — referred to as “deplatforming” or “no platforming” — can be effective.
Joan Donovan, a researcher at Data and Society, told VICE’s Motherboard last month that there tends to be a rise in attention immediately following someone’s removal from tech platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But she said that “generally the falloff is pretty significant, and they don’t gain the same amplification power they had prior to the moment they were taken off these bigger platforms.”
Kaiser, the Harvard researcher, said that the bans will be a “huge blow” to Jones’s ability to reach new audiences, citing his research on YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. In his research, Kaiser found that Jones was often recommended to YouTube users who were watching content from Fox News.
Kaiser said that Jones was a far right “beacon” — a sort of gateway who could bring conservatives looking for right-wing media into the extreme fringes via YouTube’s recommendations.
Jillian York, the director for International Freedom of Expression for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, noted that deplatforming has historically been effective at reducing the power of white supremacist groups and terror organizations. But she noted that those groups are primarily focused on recruiting young, unsuspecting members.
“When we are talking about somebody like Alex Jones, I think it’s a little different. I don’t see him utilizing these platforms to recruit unsuspecting people. I see him as using them to rile people up in a frenzy, and then follow his lead,” she said.
York warned that Jones could be made out to be a “martyr” in the eyes of many who subscribe to his ideology.
It’s a talking point that those in Jones’s orbit were quick to adopt.
“You succeeded in turning Alex Jones into a free speech martyr, meaning his message will become louder than ever,” Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at Infowars, posted on Twitter following the first round of bans.
And even where social media companies have more success at blocking Jones pages from reappearing, experts warn that blocking the man is not the same thing as blocking his ideology.
“It’s not like the things that Alex Jones was saying are being scrubbed from these algorithms,” Caruso said.