Apple has removed the American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its podcast directory, in the most significant move yet by a major technology company against the broadcaster.
Jones, who is being sued by the parents of children murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting for claiming the attack was a hoax, is the host of the daily Alex Jones Show podcast, and his platform Infowars produces another five podcasts.
All of those shows have been removed from Apple Podcasts save for one, Real News with David Knight, which at present is still on the platform.
Apple does not host podcasts, nor does it have any financial relationship with those it catalogues on its directory. Instead, Apple Podcasts is simply a list of links to podcasts hosted on independent servers around the world. But the service is still the most important single platform in the podcasting industry, driving a substantial amount of traffic to the podcasts it features on its homepage or in its charts.
Publishing platforms have faced strong pressure to take action against Jones and Infowars over the past few months, but Apple is the first major company to sanction the broadcaster in its entirety: other platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Spotify, have taken down specific pieces of content produced by Jones or Infowars that breached terms of service, but have allowed the publisher to stay active on their sites.
“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,” an Apple spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, which first reported the removal. “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.”
In other recent actions against Jones, Facebook suspended his personal profile from the site for 30 days in late July for what the company said was bullying and hate speech. But he continued to regularly appear on Facebook after the suspension, showing up in livestreams hosted by other accounts, and even making first-person posts to his personal page, by publishing them using the accounts of other administrators in Infowars.
Spotify removed some episodes of Jones’s shows last week. “We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” a Spotify spokesperson said. “Spotify can confirm it has removed specific episodes of The Alex Jones Show podcast for violating our hate content policy.”
Since founding Infowars in 1999, Jones has built a vast audience. Among the theories he has promoted is that the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington were staged by the government.
He has also promoted a theory that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked by leftwing forces to promote gun control. The shooting killed 26 children and adults at the elementary school in Connecticut.
Jones is being sued in Texas by two Sandy Hook parents, who are seeking at least $1m (£770,000), claiming they have been subjected to harassment driven by his shows.
Neither Jones nor a representative for Infowars were available for comment early on Monday.