Earlier this year Jeff Reifman — a veteran of the Seattle tech industry — contacted Grab Your Wallet co-founder Shannon Coulter with an idea.
He had compiled lists of Twitter accounts using a tool called Block Together, which allows people to instantly block groups of users on the platform. The idea was to get folks to block Twitter advertisers to encourage the platform to remove toxic accounts. That’s in line with the mission of Grab Your Wallet, a left-leaning group that encourages people not to give business to companies that carry Trump family products among other initiatives causes.
But at the time, Reifman’s blocking campaign didn’t get off the ground. That changed when public concern over Alex Jones and his Infowars brand started to grow. This week, Coulter picked up Reifman’s cause, asking her 89,000 followers to block Fortune 500 companies, using Block Together, in an effort to get Twitter to remove Jones.
“I chose Fortune 500 companies [because] they represent the bulk of Twitter’s ad revenue,” Coulter tweeted. “They’re also powerful enough to put real pressure on Twitter’s leadership team. Finally, I feel it would be neither fair nor strategic to target smaller businesses, so I focused on the big players.”
As of Tuesday, more than 50,000 Twitter users had blocked the companies. The campaign is organized around the hashtag, #BlockParty500.
Good morning! To encourage Twitter to drop Alex Jones, I just blocked the Twitter accounts of every Fortune 500 company w/ a Twitter presence. Ready to mass block Twitter's most lucrative advertisers with me? There are three quick & easy ways. Instructions are in this thread.
— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) August 12, 2018
YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Apple, Pinterest, and Vimeo have all removed Infowars from their platforms in the face of mounting pressure from the public. Jones has come under fire for spreading conspiracy theories, most infamously that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was staged.
But Twitter is resisting pressure to remove Jones. Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted his reasons.
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.
— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Twitter walked that claim back after a CNN report revealed several tweets that did appear to violate the company’s rules. Twitter did not immediately respond to our questions about the #BlockParty500 campaign.
“Horrible, hostile people are being allowed to continue to put their lies in paint on the platform and it’s time for that stop,” Reifman told GeekWire. “I think Twitter will have to face this. When they decide to, that has a lot to do with pressure that groups like Grab Your Wallet put on them.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with details of the CNN report.