Snapchat Won't Remove Filter That Promotes Alex Jones

August 8, 2018

By Alex Heath

Snapchat will not remove a filter that promotes InfoWars and the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the company told Cheddar on Wednesday.

The augmented reality (AR) filter, which Snapchat calls a lens, places a virtual piece of tape featuring the word “censorship” over the user’s mouth and shows the hashtag “#FreeInfoWars.” On Tuesday, Jones tweeted a video of him using the lens with instructions on how to use it within the Snapchat app.

In the last week, tech giants like Apple, Facebook, and Google have rushed to remove content by Jones and InfoWars from their platforms. The moves come in the wake of heightened public scrutiny on tech platforms over how they combat the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

A Snap spokesperson told Cheddar that its content policies for individual accounts and media partners "clearly prohibit hate speech and harassment” and “we will take swift action” if a violation occurs. In the case of the InfoWars lens, its content does not violate Snap's content policies, the spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, the lens Jones promoted on Twitter wasn’t created by InfoWars or Snap, but rather a third party. In April, Snapchat opened up its historically-closed platform by allowing third-party developers to create AR lenses that can be shared in the app. The company recently disclosed that more than 100,000 lenses have been submitted by outside developers and accumulatively viewed over 3.5 billion times.

While Snap won’t remove the lens that promotes Jones, the company said that it will not feature the lens in its carousel of community-created lenses, which is curated by Snap employees and accessible through the app's camera interface. The only way people can access the InfoWars lens is by scanning its QR code through the Snapchat camera or if it is sent to them by a friend on the app.

Alex Jones appears to have an InfoWars Snapchat account, but a person familiar with the matter told Cheddar that the account has been inactive since it was created earlier this year. InfoWars does not have a channel in Snapchat’s Discover section, which features content from professional news organizations that are vetted by Snap. (Cheddar is a Snapchat Discover partner.)

By not taking action on content that promotes Alex Jones or his account, Snap is following a similar path to that of Twitter, which has said that it won’t remove Jones’s account because it has not violated Twitter policies.