A site supposedly secretly founded by Alex Jones to promote misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other content from his outlet Infowars has earned well over a million interactions on Facebook, even though Meta has had a ban on Infowars content since 2019.
According to an investigation of Jones’ 2019 and 2020 text messages — which were leaked to the Southern Poverty Law Center during litigation of the Sandy Hook defamation lawsuits — Jones started the site National File “to promote Infowars content and to establish a business vehicle for his son.” The investigation further revealed that “the Jones family appears to be bankrolling National File as a clearinghouse for Infowars content,” as Jones told operative Roger Stone in a text message on February 13, 2020, “off record this is my site.”
On May 2, 2019, Facebook announced a ban on Alex Jones and Infowars, with The Atlantic reporting at the time that “Facebook and Instagram will remove any content containing Infowars videos, radio segments, or articles (unless the post is explicitly condemning the content), and Facebook will also remove any groups set up to share Infowars content and events promoting any of the banned extremist figures.” Roughly two months later, a domain was registered for National File, and several affiliated social media accounts were created. Like the main Infowars network, National File is known for spreading misinformation, and as the SPLC notes, the site has collaborated with Infowars. Additionally, one of National File’s highest profile figures, Patrick Howley, is known for rampant antisemitism.
A Media Matters analysis found that Jones successfully circumvented Facebook’s ban, using National File as a vehicle to promote himself and spread Infowars content. Using CrowdTangle, we compiled and analyzed posts that contained “nationalfile.com” and were posted by Facebook pages, verified accounts, or in public groups between May 2, 2019 — when Facebook announced its ban on Infowars — and March 14, 2023. During this time frame, there were nearly 12,000 public Facebook posts mentioning and/or linking to National File’s website, with the posts earning more than 1.2 million interactions. And another tracking tool, BuzzSumo, showed that multiple articles from National File have received hundreds of thousands of Facebook engagements each.
In addition to the website being shared across Facebook, Facebook’s parent company Meta has profited from the site: According to Meta’s Ad Library, the National File Facebook page has run multiple ads, with some of the ads eventually being removed for violating the platform’s ad policies. The Ad Library also shows multiple ads that have featured and linked to National File.
Infowars’ ability to circumvent its ban on Meta’s platforms is not limited to National File: Meta has struggled to prevent content from Infowars’ streaming platform banned.video from spreading on Facebook. SPLC also reported that Jones’ texts showed Jones and National File’s then-editor-in-chief in 2020 discussed “how to use Jones’ new banned.video domain to get around the ‘idiots’ in Facebook’s content moderation division.” According to CrowdTangle, banned.video has been mentioned and/or linked to in nearly 14,000 public Facebook posts since May 2019, earning at least 170,000 interactions. Meta has also allowed ads that featured and linked to banned.video.