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YouTube issues warning to Infowars founder, takes down four videos

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YouTube issues warning to Infowars founder, takes down four videos

Image: Alex Jones, center, is escorted out of a crowd of protester
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YouTube on Wednesday removed four videos from the channel of Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who founded the far-right media outlet Infowars, and issued a warning that more violations could result in a ban from the video platform.

Jones' channel was issued a "strike," first reported by The Verge, as part of YouTube's three-strike policy for publishers who abuse the platform's terms of service. A source familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the strike was issued. The four videos counted together as one strike, the source confirmed.

All four of the videos were removed for violating the rules of "violent or graphic content," according to a screenshot of the violations posted by Infowars. Two of the videos featured anti-Muslim content, including one in which Jones claimed that Muslims had invaded Europe. Another was flagged for anti-transgender content in which Jones appeared to threaten transgender people. The fourth showed an adult man and a young boy engaged in a physical altercation under the title "How To Prevent Liberalism."

Three strikes within a 90-day window would warrant a ban from the platform under YouTube's rules, meaning Jones' channel would be deleted. Jones' channel, which is the primary YouTube distribution point for Infowars videos, received a separate strike in Februaryfor a video that suggested Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg was a paid "crisis actor" as part of an elaborate hoax.

Because that incident happened more than three months ago, the most recent strike counts as the channel's first.

Jones's YouTube channel has more than 2.4 million subscribers, though many of his most recent videos have fewer than 20,000 views.

On his Facebook page, Jones confirmed that YouTube removed the videos.

"YouTube has removed four Infowars videos that were critical of liberalism, but you can watch the videos here and make up your own mind - instead of letting YouTube to do it for you," Jones wrote in a Facebook post that linked out to Infowars' page with the videos.

Infowars and Jones have become a flashpoint as platforms have pledged to crack down on users who push outlandish conspiracy theories, disseminate consistently false information, and harass other users or public figures. Jones often promotes conspiracy theories and is perhaps best known for claiming that the massacre at Sandy Hook was staged by actors.

When reached for comment, YouTube provided an emailed statement pointing to its terms of service.

"We have long-standing policies against child endangerment and hate speech. We apply our policies consistently according to the content in the videos, regardless of the speaker or the channel," YouTube said in its statement. "We also have a clear three-strikes policy and we terminate channels when they receive three strikes in three months."

While social media companies have issued warnings to Jones and reduced his reach, none have yet banned him or Infowars from their platforms. Those decisions have come under growing scrutiny.

Facebook has held several town halls with journalists in the last month in an effort to showcase the company's renewed commitment to stopping misinformation on its platform, but the legitimacy of those efforts have been questioned due to the platform's decision not to ban Infowars.

On Tuesday, Jones threatened to shoot special counsel Robert Mueller and accused him of being a pedophile on a video that was posted to both YouTube and Facebook. Facebook said the video did not violate the company's rules.

Infowars and its founder Alex Jones are verified on Facebook and combined they have more than 2.5 million followers. Facebook said it would limit the reach of pages that repeatedly post made-up stories or conspiracy theories, but haven't named Infowars by name.

Some parents of the children in the Sandy Hook shooting have urged Facebook for more of a voice in the company's content moderation processes, asking the social network to take into consideration how their lives were negatively impacted by disinformation and harassment, some of which was fomented by Jones.

Infowars had called the shooting "synthetic" and "completely fake with actors," before claiming his comments were taken out of context and were, themselves, part of a conspiracy.

Jason Abbruzzese contributed reporting.

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