Several removed much of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' content.

No more wild-eyed claims that 9/11 was a hoax, that the government was behind the Sandy Hook shooting or that the Parkland kids are "crisis actors." No more spittle-flecked speculation about "white genocide" or how chemtrails are used for population control.

Now, if you want to learn more about how the "New World Order" is bent on corralling us all into prison camps, you're going to have to type Infowars.com into the address bar yourself.

That's right: Last week, Apple, Facebook and YouTube removed the majority of noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' content from their platforms, to the dismay of crackpots across the Web.

Previously, the social media sites had made some tentative attempts to control the spread of Jones' viral untruths through their networks, levying 30-day bans on Jones himself and removing occasional episodes of his Infowars podcasts and shows. But now more wholesale bans have been put into effect.

Facebook, Apple and YouTube were well within their rights to boot Jones. Despite the outsize hue and cry rising from his co-conspirators, they've done nothing wrong.

Naturally, Jones thinks differently. In a series of aggrieved text messages sent to the Washington Post, he accused the companies of preparing to "move against the First Amendment in this country as we know it."

The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech." That's it. It does not say that private companies are required to host your speech on their platforms, or that they must promote your content. You can say what you like, but no one else is obliged to help you get your message out.

But for those genuinely worried about the fate of our public discourse, take heart: Alex Jones is an exceptional case, and exceptions don't make the rule — especially in a country that agonizes over freedom of expression as much as we do.

It took months for these platforms to decide to stop hosting him, and their decision last week was clearly not what they would have preferred. As recently as last month, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg expressed reluctance to remove even Holocaust denial from the platform, for goodness' sake.

There's no reason to think the removal of Infowars from Apple and YouTube will have any chilling effect on anyone who conducts themselves according to these sites' publicly available terms of service — or even, in many cases, somewhat outside of them.

Fine. If you're an up-and-coming conspiracy theorist who traffics in absurd falsehoods and plans to build an empire through a combination of fear-mongering and dietary supplement sales, the events of last week may give you pause. But that, to my mind, is a good thing.

When it comes down to it, false statements and purposeful conspiracy-mongering cause public harm. Often, a lot of harm.

In December 2016, a man shot up the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., following a rumor, amplified by Jones, that it was hosting a pedophile ring.

Parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School can't visit their children's graves because they are hounded by Infowars-inspired harassers.

In June, an armed man in an armored vehicle barricaded himself near the Hoover Dam in support of QAnon, only the latest of the cockeyed theories that Jones has promoted.

Tech platforms rightly don't want any part of it.

This move is an important step toward setting reasonable, and badly needed, precedent around free speech. Companies don't have to defend the indefensible.

 

Christina Emba is a Washington Post columnist.