Google has banned and removed the Infowars app from the Play Store for spreading false information about the coronavirus. According to a report in one major technology news outlet, the app’s ban came after controversial right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones posted a video through the app discounting the need for social distancing.
Jones has been a controversial figure over the years and has on many occasions been accused of spreading false or misleading claims through his Infowars initiative. Just recently, he was also banned from Twitter and Facebook for the same reason. Jones’s Infowars channel on YouTube that had millions of subscribers was also deleted by Google. It seems like one of the last few avenues he had to air out his views is now gone too.
Before it was banned from the Google Play Store, the Infowars app had nearly 100,000 downloads. A spokesperson from Google noted that “now more than ever before, dealing with misinformation on the Play Store is a top priority for the company.” The spokesperson also went on to remind everyone that using any app to spread misinformation is a violation of the Play Store policy, adding that Google will act immediately by removing such apps.
Lately, it seems like trouble has been following Jones everywhere he goes. Just recently, the right-wing conspiracy theorist was ordered by the New York Attorney General’s office to stop selling Infowars branded products that he was marketing as a possible “cure” for coronavirus.
Tech companies in the US have maintained that they are putting all the efforts they can to combat the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus. Google in fact now has an “SOS Alert” in place for the coronavirus. The alert is designed to point users to information resources from the CDC and other local and federal government agencies.
In addition to this, major social media companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube also issued a joint statement on March 16th noting that they are leaving nothing to chance in combating any kind of fraud or misinformation about the virus. Microsoft was also part of that joint statement and the company is also offering numerous resources to help keep people informed about what is going on.
The COVID-19 disease has become a global pandemic. Many countries have already reported infections and the global death toll is now over 40,000. Many public health experts agree that social distancing is a key strategy in preventing the spread of the virus but are also warning that misinformation could create unnecessary anxiety.
Looks like the major tech companies are doing everything they can to curb this. The removal of the Infowars app is a clear sign that they are not going to back off.