Apple banned Alex Jones and Infowars from its podcast directory. But Apple's App Store has different rules, and you can still download the Infowars app
- Apple said on Sunday that it will remove several Infowars podcasts from its iTunes directory, including the widely-viewed Alex Jones Show.
- However, the official Infowars app is still available from the Apple App Store.
- The Infowars app broadcasts the Alex Jones Show.
- The Infowars app has been downloaded about 60,000 times since it launched last month, according to an estimate.
Late Sunday night, Apple announced that it had removed several controversial Infowars podcasts from the iTunes podcast directory, including its popular Alex Jones Show podcast.
The only Infowars podcast remaining on the iTunes directory is "Real News With David Knight." Previously, Infowars published 6 podcasts on the Apple podcast directory.
This means that someone who fires up the default podcast app on their iPhone or iPad and searches for Infowars won't see the Alex Jones Show, a popular daily show that's been widely criticized for pushing conspiracy theories, and for promoting fringe right-wing politics that some believe constitutes hate speech.
But if the same person were to fire up the Apple App Store and search for Infowars, they'd pull up Infowars Official, a free app that opens up directly into a feed topped with the most recent video of the Alex Jones Show, which can be viewed live, or listened to as background audio.
There's a second Infowars app on the App Store, too, called Alex Jones Radio, although it appears to have been abandoned by the organization and doesn't work with iPhones running up-to-date software.
The Infowars app doesn't contain back episodes of the Alex Jones Show, meaning you can't use it to find the content affected by Apple's decision. It also includes a newsfeed of written Infowars stories. There are no in-app purchases, and it's a free app, so Apple doesn't make any money from downloads. However, there is a tab in the app which brings you to the Infowars store, which sells Jones-endorsed nutritional supplements and other merchandise.
The Infowars Official podcast app launched in July. It's been downloaded close to 60,000 times, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower, with 75% of those downloads coming from the United States. It made it as high as No. 12 on the News category for iPhone apps but never ranked in the main "all categories" free apps list, which means it was outside the top 1,500 apps.
Infowars Official currently ranks as No. 45 in the News category in the App Store in the United States.
Apple told Business Insider that it has clear guidelines for podcasts, which includes provisions for hate speech.
"Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users," Apple said in a statement.
"Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions."
Although Apple didn't point to the specific guideline, in its iTunes Partner podcast FAQ, it gives a number of reasons why a podcast may be rejected or removed, including "hate themes."
Here are the two relevant items from the FAQ:
- Content that could be construed as racist, misogynist, or homophobic
- Content depicting graphic sex, violence, gore, illegal drugs, or hate themes
However, Apple's App Store doesn't have the same guidelines on hate themes. Apple declined to comment on whether the Infowars Official app violated Apple guidelines, and didn't respond to a follow-up question.
Apple's App Store has strict guidelines: All apps are reviewed by Apple itself before being listed for sale. The App Store is the only official way to load apps onto the iPhone and iPad, meaning that Apple itself is the ultimate arbiter of what users can run on their devices.
Apple's guidelines say that apps should "not include content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, or in exceptionally poor taste."
Examples of "questionable content" not allowed on the App Store include violence, depictions that encourage illegal use of weapons, porn, "inflammatory religious commentary," and "false information and features."
"We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions and the quality of the app experience is great," Apple says in the guidelines introduction.
"We will reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, 'I’ll know it when I see it'. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it," it continues.
Apple causing a domino reaction
Apple decided to remove the Infowars podcasts after a period of increased scrutiny of Jones and the Infowars network, which led to activist pressure on tech companies to pull his content from their distribution platforms.
Jones has pushed a theory, without evidence, that Democrats were planning to start a "Civil War" in the United States on July 4. He has also claimed that the mass shooting in Sandy Hook never happened, which has led to harassment of survivors and their families.
Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube all announced on Monday that they had taken Infowars content off its platforms after Apple's announcement.
Podcasts distributed through Apple's podcast app aren't hosted by Apple — it's merely a directory for finding and organizing the shows. Dedicated listeners can still add The Alex Jones Show to their podcast app by pasting a URL. It certainly makes it harder to find and peruse Infowars content, but it's not actively blocking users from accessing it.
Apple's App Store is different — it actually hosts the apps and users download them from Apple's content distribution network.
Apple has highlighted its App Store as one of its biggest growth products, because it takes between 15% and 30% of purchases made through it. "The App Store has exceeded our wildest expectations, igniting a cultural and economic phenomenon that has changed how people work, learn and play," CEO Tim Cook said last week during a conference call.
(Apple doesn't make any money from Infowars Official downloads because it's a free app and doesn't have in-app purchases.)
Last month, both Apple and Google removed an app focusing on a far right conspiracy theory called "Qanon" involving Hillary Clinton and an alleged child sex ring.
The app, QDrops, was removed from Apple's App Store after an NBC News story that said that Apple made money from the app through its cut of the $0.99 purchase price.
"We have published clear guidelines that developers must follow in order for their apps to be distributed by the App Store, designed to foster innovation and provide a safe environment to all of our users. We will take swift action to remove any apps that violate our guidelines or the law — we take this responsibility very seriously," Apple told NBC News.
"The bigger issue is that some of these tools are used to divide people, to manipulate people, to get fake news to people in broad numbers, and so to influence their thinking," Cook, Apple's CEO, said last year. "This, to me, is the number one-through-ten issue."
Meanwhile, Jones took to Periscope — the live video broadcasting service operated by Twitter — to rail against the tech companies, including Apple, for their actions, and urged his followers to download the Infowars app.
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