You and big tech gave Infowars one of its greatest days ever

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been banned on social media, but this week he found a megaphone anyway.

Ye – the megastar formerly known as Kanye West – joined Jones’ far-right conspiracy theory outlet on Thursday for an interview announcing his “love” for Adolf Hitler and Nazis. The rampant anti-Semitism immediately caught the attention of the internet. While the content was overwhelmingly criticized, the interview — and the anti-Semitism it expressed — still reached millions, thanks to reposted clips of the interview on mainstream social media platforms.

With clips of the interview being uploaded to YouTube, Google told NBC News in a statement that it is working to remove reuploads if the anti-Semitism in the interview is not denounced through added commentary in the video. Other platforms like Twitter have yet to explicitly address that kind of distribution.

Jones is perhaps best known for falsely claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting did not happen. Jones and Infowars were already banned from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Apple, YouTube, Spotify, Google Play, Vimeo, Pinterest, Mailchimp, and LinkedIn.

Jones now hosts his content on his own video platform Banned, where broadcasts typically get anywhere from 10,000 to just over 1 million views.

But Ye’s interview had been viewed more than 3.1 million times as of its publication. It was already Jones’ most viewed video on his platform.

On other platforms, clips from the interview gained millions more.

“Social media platforms reward the most controversial content, because people who oppose it engage in expressing their disgust, their anger, saying it’s wrong, and by doing that, platforms elevate that and give it an algorithmic boost, Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said.

The reaction to Ye’s comments was swift and unprecedented, with major conservative figures joining Ye days or even hours before the interview to denounce him.

Late Thursday night, Ye tweeted screenshots of text messages between him and Elon Musk in which Musk said, “Sorry, but you’ve gone too far. This isn’t love,” which immediately drew attention to Ye’s account and his interview that day.

Twitter suspended Ye later that night after Ye tweeted an image featuring a swastika.

Despite the suspension, some reposts of the interview on Twitter have been viewed more than 3 million times.

For years, anti-hate groups and corporate advertisers have been urging social media platforms to be vigilant about stopping the spread of hate online, arguing that sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube weren’t doing enough to enforce their own rules.

“Someone saying something that’s disgusting and then retweeting the whole video doesn’t do anything but express disgust, but it actually reinforces it for a lot of people,” Ahmed said.

“There’s an effect where it draws people back to the Infowars platform, because they want to know where it came from. It’s starting to normalize the idea that this kind of content is out there,” Ahmed said.

Some YouTube users uploaded full copies of the interview on Friday, according to an NBC News search of the platform. And while full, unedited copies had only a few hundred views, right-wing commentators posted lengthy snippets of the interview mixing Ye’s anti-Semitic remarks with their own response. One such video by a right-wing commentator was viewed 307,000 times, giving Ye’s remarks like “I love Hitler” a large audience with little attention.

“This is one of the biggest problems in responding to online hate,” said Bond Benton, an associate professor of communications at Montclair State University. “There’s a certain segment of people who see it and say, ‘My hateful views have now normalized.’ And they’ll be much more comfortable expressing and acting on them individually.”

The top search results for Ye-related terms on YouTube were mostly videos from established news organizations giving context to the videos, but some commenters said they were torn about how much to discuss about it.

“The easiest thing is to ignore it and not talk about it, but I have to talk about it because this is insane,” said Greg Foreman, a conservative YouTuber in a 15-minute video that has more than 80,000 views. He showed clips of Ye praising Hitler, and Foreman speculated that his channel could get a “strike” from YouTube as a result.

“The Alex Jones channel was removed from YouTube in 2018 and in accordance with our Circumvention Policy, we are removing third-party re-uploads of his recent interview with Kanye West,” Jack Malon, a YouTube spokesperson, said in an email.

“We may allow some of this content to remain on the platform, but only in cases where hate speech that would otherwise violate our Community Guidelines is condemned,” he said.

On Facebook, some users uploaded short clips of the interview, often in the context of a news program, but not always, according to an NBC News search. But the clips without context turned out to have very few views. A seven-minute video of Ye making anti-Semitic remarks was viewed just 48 times.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said it followed its established policy on “dangerous individuals and organizations.” Under that policy, Meta says it will “remove content that praises, substantially supports, or represents ideologies that promote hatred, such as Nazism and white supremacy.”

The top post on Reddit on Thursday was a repost of the interview. Two other posts in the top 20 Reddit posts that day were also reposts, and both videos featured the Infowars logo. The videos contain the specific excerpts of the interview in which Ye praised Hitler and the Nazis and portrayed them in a shocking and negative light. In a response to NBC News, Reddit pointed to its content policies, which include banning content and communities that attack marginalized and vulnerable people and groups.

The largest social media platform where Ye is still present appears to be TikTok. His verified account there has 1.9 million followers, but as of Friday afternoon, his most recent TikTok video was from Oct. 13.

A short clip of Ye’s interview without context was viewed 82,700 times, and while TikTok searches for Hitler’s name turned up zero results, the person who posted the clip had used a slight variation of the name. The clip had more than 300 comments, including some from people who sided with Ye.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment and additional information about its enforcement.

“There is a devastating consequence to the normalization of anti-Semitism,” Ahmed said. “Nobody needs to be reminded what that could lead to.”

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