By Jack Nicas
SAN FRANCISCO — After Silicon Valley internet giants mostly barred Alex Jones from their services last month, traffic to his Infowars website and app soared on the blaze of publicity — and the notorious conspiracy theorist declared victory.
“The more I’m persecuted, the stronger I get,” Mr. Jones said on his live internet broadcast three days later. “It backfired.”
Yet a review of traffic on Infowars several weeks after the bans shows that the tech companies drastically reduced Mr. Jones’s reach by cutting off his primary distribution channels: YouTube and Facebook.
In the three weeks before the Aug. 6 bans, Infowars had a daily average of nearly 1.4 million visits to its website and views of videos posted by its main YouTube and Facebook pages, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the web data firms Tubular Labs and SimilarWeb. In the three weeks afterward, its audience fell by roughly half, to about 715,000 site visits and video views, according to the analysis.
The analysis did not include traffic to the two-month-old Infowars app or views of videos that Mr. Jones posted on Twitter, where his accounts remain active. He also still shares posts inside private Facebook groups, and his followers repost his content from their social-media accounts. But data suggest that those sources of traffic are smaller than Mr. Jones’s main Facebook and YouTube pages.
That Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, muffled one of the internet’s loudest voices so quickly illustrates the tremendous influence a few internet companies have over public discourse and the spread of information.
Published Sept 4, 2018
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Professor Monica Stephens can be heard discussing “Twitter” from 15:00 minutes to 23:00 minutes on the broadcast.