Infowars is gone from Facebook after a high-profile showdown over the summer between Silicon Valley and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. But another Facebook page, NewsWars, has taken its place - and Jones' many fans have followed.
In the three months since Facebook removed four of Jones' pages over allegations of hate speech, the NewsWars page has remained intact and surged in posts and page views. The NewsWars Facebook page identifies NewsWars.com, which Jones said his company operates, as the website associated with the page and lists it under "Contact Info." Jones said he doesn't run the Facebook page.
Videos hosted by the NewsWars Facebook page have totalled 3.9 million views since August, nearly reaching the monthly viewership of Jones's videos on Infowars and other pages he controlled before they were shut down.
These calculations - made by Columbia University social media researcher Jonathan Albright using CrowdTangle, an analytics tool from Facebook - underscore Jones' agility in navigating his battle with what he calls "Big Tech." He has claimed to be a victim of Internet "censorship" even as tech platforms help maintain his audience and the visibility of the nutritional supplement business that is key to his earnings.
The continuing popularity of Jones' videos on Facebook, including those focusing on the migrant caravan in Mexico and claims that pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats were hoaxes, also highlights Silicon Valley's struggle to crack down on hate speech even in cases when tech companies have publicly singled out perpetrators for punishment.
"It shows a huge failure in being able to control this stuff," said Albright, research director for Columbia's Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
Jones, who responded to requests for comment in a phone call after an initial version of this story was posted online, acknowledged that his social media staff sometimes suggests content to the NewsWars Facebook page, but said that Facebook has ceased being a major source of referral to his sites, amounting to only 1 percent of overall traffic to his InfoWars.com website.
He criticised what he called "corporate media," saying news organisations such as The Washington Post were trying to destroy "independent media" but said that his clash with Silicon Valley has allowed overall viewership of his online properties to boom.
"I stand ready to thank the corporate media and the authoritarians because they've taken us to a whole new level," Jones said.
A Facebook spokesman noted the company said in an August blog post it was taking down some but not all of Jones's content. The post also said Facebook would assess allegations of misconduct against pages individually and would not necessarily ban the people maintaining pages even if the pages themselves were removed.
Facebook, Apple, Spotify, Twitter and other companies removed content from Jones in August but, in most cases, gave little detail on the reasons for acting at that time against Jones after years of allegations he engaged in hate speech and spread phoney reports masquerading as news. Jones claimed, for example, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a hoax and now faces defamation lawsuits brought by some of the families whose children were killed.
Facebook's blog post on August 6 said it initially removed videos from four pages, including the main Infowars page, and blocked Jones for 30 days for his role in administering those pages. "Since then, more content from the same Pages has been reported to us," Facebook wrote. "Upon review, we have taken it down for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanising language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies."
Facebook left up NewsWars, which had started in December 2016 but produced far fewer posts and less traffic than the Infowars page. The NewsWars page soon swelled with new images and videos, including clips taken from Jones's online broadcast on Infowars.com. The NewsWars Facebook page also linked to a NewsWars.com website that includes numerous links to Infowars. Jones announced the creation of NewsWars in an Infowars blog post in August 2017.
Albright found that since August, the NewsWars Facebook page has posted 52 photos, 1,400 links, 1,100 Facebook Videos and 13 videos from YouTube. The most popular video on the page was about the plight of South Africa's white farmers, a common theme for Jones.
The video claims South Africa's struggles over land ownership are the product of a communist plot and racism is not "the problem" in South Africa despite massive disparities in wealth, education and housing. That video, featuring Jones and coming directly from his Infowars broadcast, was viewed 576,000 times on Facebook, according to Albright's calculations.
Another Facebook page, called Infowars Stream, also features images of Jones and clips from his shows, though the ownership of the Facebook page is not clear. It has received 1.2 million video views since August 1.
Jones said he had no knowledge of the Infowars Stream page.