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Alex Jones, Components and Power

Several weeks ago, Alex Jones, an internet commentator best known for the controversial site¬†InfoWars, was banned from Twitter after other tech companies such as YouTube and Facebook kicked him off because his polarizing perspectives on major events such as 9/11, the Sandy Hook shooting and others. It is very interesting that such companies are taking action now because he has been a borderline conspiracy theorist for over a decade now, but that is beside the point. At the time of his “purge” from the internet, Jones had over 2 million subscribers on YouTube and billions of video views.

For those in Jones’ network, which is defined to be an ego network consisting of Jones and his followers, these events have little consequences for them since the ties between them and Alex Jones are most likely strong because they know where to go and if they don’t, they probably know another follower who does (Strong Triadic Closure). Outside of Jones’s ego network, the events described in the first paragraph are sure to cause some interest for Jones and his content to be generated. By banning Jones from their platforms, the major technology companies are attempting to create two components: Alex Jones and his network, and their network (which consists of everyone else). Whether this is promoting free speech or censoring it is debatable, but the facts are clear.

Another question one must ask is about power in networks, especially on the Internet. Although anyone can create a website and have a platform for themselves, our social networking and video streaming are controlled by very few entities. For example, the majority of video content is uploaded to YouTube, which owns about 80 percent of the video steaming market, according to Statstia. Instagram and Twitch, two originally independent companies, are now subsidiaries of Facebook and Amazon, respectively. If few tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Twitter allow us to have access to an audience of millions, then does the individual have any power. Not really, because these companies know that you will have to “negotiate” with them at least once in your lifetime,¬†and the size of these companies make it nearly impossible and impractical for a group of individuals to create a platform of their size.

Overall, the ban of Alex Jones from these sites brings up two questions: Can a node or a set of nodes be too powerful? Is an equal or concentrated distribution of power better in a network?


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September 2018