Alex Jones Lawyer Robert Barnes Removes Hate Groups From Rumble’s Content Policy

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While the online video platform Rumble has taken a long time critical for amplifying right-wing misinformation and conspiracy theories, the video-hosting service is preparing to go in an even darker direction, hiring one of Alex Jones’ lawyers to draft new moderation policies for content that removes an existing ban on material that promotes or incites hate groups.

In June, Rumble commissioned one of Jones’ longtime defamation lawyers to revise the site’s moderation policies. And he made some disturbing changes.

The attorney, Robert Barnes, is a frequent guest on Infowars and Jones’ Sandy Hook lead libel attorney for more than three years. But while Barnes wasn’t in the Texas courtroom during the explosive final days of Jones’ recent multimillion-dollar loss, he stepped up to air a “opening statement” to a critical shadow jury: the Infowars audience.

Rumble — which has business ties to top Republicans including former President Donald Trump, billionaire tech and political investor Peter Thiel and Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance — tapped Barnes this spring , just as the Sandy Hook trial was heating up. Working with Canadian attorney and Rumble content producer David Freiheit (aka “Viva Frei”), Barnes has removed current language that explicitly prohibits material that endorses or incites fringe groups, including – by name – the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups.

The website announced the changes in June with a internal blog post and Press release. The Barnes-Frei Proposition Bands current political language banning “content or material” that the “online community” finds “grossly offensive”.

“The proposed moderation policies were devised by the main creators of Rumble and Locals, Robert Barnes and David Freiheit, who are both also accomplished lawyers”, a Press release announcing the changes said. “Under the proposed policies, content creators will be able to speak to interested audiences within the bounds of the law and without harassment while ensuring a consistent and transparent process as the platform continues its rapid growth.”

Rumble’s current terms—last edited in early January—are pretty specific about prohibited content.

“Under no circumstances should the following be submitted to the Rumble Service,” the policy reads. It goes on to specify several types of violations, including material that “promotes, supports or incites” violent individuals or groups, such as people “affiliated with Antifa, the KKK and white supremacist groups and/or people affiliated with these groups”.

Barnes’ proposed terms don’t just name these groups, but say nothing at all about content promoting hate groups. In addition, the proposal also removes plain language that makes it clear that these rules apply to user-submitted content.

The Press release and internal announcement cites Barnes as saying the proposal will “provide a free space for open discourse without politicized discrimination” while “simultaneously protecting users from harassing behavior”.

The only discrimination mentioned by Freiheit relates to the protection against the “indiscriminate application” of these rules.

While the proposed policy would prohibit “discriminating against others based on their legally protected status”, the policy, unlike the current terms, does not explicitly apply this rule to uploaded content.

Additionally, the proposed terms only apply this non-discrimination policy to Rumble users, not to others outside the platform who may also be targeted, “such as attacking other users or creators. of content on the Platform based on that User’s race, religion or other legally protected status.

The announcement also notes that Rumble wants to protect users from “bad faith users of the platform whose behavior discourages use of the service and who engage in unlawful discrimination”, emphasizing “harassment “.

Notably, the policy does not provide guidance on content that promotes hate groups. It also doesn’t appear to prohibit hate groups or their ambassadors from using the platform – such as for radicalization and recruitment – as long as they don’t post material that is inherently discriminatory.

Still, Rumble and the lawyers behind the new policy say the update will lead to a cleaner and safer user experience. They do so in a lengthy and often redundant explanation, stuffed with retread right-wing grievances about “cancel culture” and mentioning “free speech” nine times.

You can read the full announcement here.

Rumble, a Canadian company with US headquarters in Sarasota, Florida, markets itself as a YouTube alternative that is “immune to cancel culture.” The platform has 44 million monthly visitors, The New York Times reported this year, and despite criticism from its users and executives about partisanship and politicization, it struck business deals with a number of high-profile political figures.

Those numbers include Trump, Vance and Thiel, who have invested tens of millions of dollars in Republican candidates this year, including protege Vance.

Rumble also has business ties to former Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA) through his technology agreement with Trump Media and its Truth Social social media platform. He also has a business deal with right-wing commentator Dan Bongino – himself a Rumble powerhouse – who acquired a stake in Rumble when he formed a partnership in January with a payment processing company co-founded by Bongino. (Trump himself left Trump Media in an unexpected exodus of leaders in June, with former Trump administration official Kash Patel and his eldest adult son, Don Jr.)

Rumble’s claims to be apolitical also collide directly with the timing of Vance and Thiel’s investment.

Vance, through his company, Narya, LEDs a Rumble funding round with Thiel last May, about two months after Thiel invested $10 million in a super PAC supporting Vance. In the deal, a Narya partner, Ethan Fallang, acquired a seat on Rumble’s board of directors.

This made Vance and Thiel among Rumble’s first outside investors, a fact Vance touted during the campaign trail.

At the time of the investment, of course, Vance was not officially a candidate. However, a predated Personal loan that Vance later filed with the Federal Election Commission shows that he was in fact investing money in what would become his campaign, retroactively acknowledging that he had been acting as a candidate since at least that date.

And the date of Vance’s campaign loan, for $100,000, was May 19, the same day Rumble announcement Vance and Thiel’s investment. According to a amended financial information Vance filed in April he personally owns between $115,000 and $300,000 in the business.

But the investment has drawn a lot of criticism, as Rumble has often been said to be a breeding ground for misinformation and radicalization, which, combined with its growing popularity, has led extremism pundits to Give the alert.

About a week before Vance and Thiel announced their investment, WIRED published a investigation report who found Rumble not only gives misinformation a home, but has always promoted it through its recommendations to users. The New York Times recently reported that “Rumble’s democratizing vision for online speech has so far primarily appealed to people on the right,” including “many extremists who use their Rumble accounts to deny the effectiveness of vaccines, downplay the horrific toll of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 elections.”

Some of this content is actually reminiscent of Barnes, in his role as Jones’ Sandy Hook libel attorney.

The families of the Sandy Hook victims have sued Jones for continually claiming the massacre was a false flag, saying the allegations fueled unfounded anger among his audience and led to death threats.

Rumble himself set up “false flag” narratives about the mass shootings—including Sandy Hook– along with numerous popular videos making similar baseless claims about recent attacks in Buffalo, Uvalde and Highland Park. The site even hand-selected one of these false flags videos as an “editor’s choice”.

After the Uvalde massacre, the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert that the “continued proliferation of false or misleading accounts” of recent shootings could, compounded by other factors, “inspire individuals to come together to violence”.

The Rumble editors, however, presented a video this opened with the user rejecting assurances that the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde were not false flags.

“Now you just have to avoid all the totally legitimate, out of the woods mass shootings that are happening all around us. Because it’s absolutely not a psyop, it’s absolutely not a false flag, it’s just our new normal. No. Fuck that noise,” the user says. (The same rumble Account had posted a video after the Buffalo shootout that opened with the attacker’s livestream.)

Spokesperson for Rumble, Trump and Vance, who has called Alex Jones “a far more reliable source of information than Rachel Maddow” – did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

But in March, a spokesperson for the Vance campaign defended his investment in the Associated Press amid criticism that Rumble hosted Russia Today, a propaganda outlet financed by the Kremlin.

“Rumble has always supported free speech on its platform, even speech it may find offensive,” the spokesperson said, comparing the website’s ethos to that of Twitter, which, according to the gatekeeper. -word, “censors a sitting US president while allowing the Chinese Communist Party, North Korea and Ayatollah Khomeini (to name a few) to continue their propaganda.

Rumble is always seeking user feedback on the proposed content policy. The site expects the process to be completed this year.

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