Roku removes Alex Jones videos from streaming service amid uproar
Roku reversed course Tuesday and pulled videos of Infowars publisher Alex Jones from the company’s popular digital streaming service, heeding complaints from critics opposed to providing a platform for the controversial right-wing media personality.
Launched on Monday evening, Roku initially defended hosting the fan-made Infowars channel prior to an avalanche of criticism resulted in its removal within hours.
“While the vast majority of all streaming on our platform is mainstream entertainment, voices on all sides of an issue or cause are free to operate a channel,” Roku said in a statement early Tuesday. “We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint.”
“After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform,” Roku conceded later Tuesday. “Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.”
Roku boasted 27 million active users in 2018, making it’s streaming devices the most popular among U.S. consumers, according to eMarketer, a market research firm.
Mr. Jones’ digital reach dwindled drastically during the last year, meanwhile, due largely to being outright banned on streaming platforms operated by Apple, Spotify and Google’s YouTube, among others, where digital episodes of The Alex Jones Show reached a monthly audience of millions prior to being purged.
More than a dozen tech companies abruptly banned or suspended accounts linked to Mr. Jones and Infowars during a span of several weeks starting in July 2018, making Roku the latest addition to a growing list of platforms to prohibit the controversial media figure.
“This was a fan-made channel with no direct involvement by us, and due to our general popularity it began trending on Roku,” Mr. Jones said in a statement blaming unnamed “Democratic PR firms” for Roku’s decision. “This is simply censorship.”
A representative for Roku declined to comment when asked by The Washington Times about the specific factors that contributed to the company’s decision to delete the Infowars channel. Pressure mounted in the hours before the company acted, however, after an attorney suing Mr. Jones issued press release urging Roku to change course.
“Roku’s shocking decision to carry Infowars and provide a platform for Alex Jones is an insult to the memory of the 26 children and educators killed at Sandy Hook,” said Josh Koskoff, a lawyer suing Mr. Jones for defamation on behalf of relatives of victims killed during the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
“We call on Roku to realize this and immediately pull the program. Until then, the families will be switching to alternate streaming providers that know the difference between authentic if provocative opinions and a lying opportunist seeking to make money by any means possible. There is no amount of anticipated revenue that could possibly justify Roku’s calculated decision,” he said.
Pending in Connecticut State Superior Court, Mr. Koskoff’s lawsuit against Mr. Jones, 44, alleges the Texas-based talk show “persistently perpetuated a monstrous, unspeakable lie: that the Sandy Hook shooting was staged, and that the families who lost loved ones that day are actors who faked their relatives’ deaths.”
Mr. Jones previously referred to the Sandy Hook massacre as a “giant hoax,” and his Infowars website has published videos titled “Sandy Hook Shooting Exposed As a Fraud” and “Sandy Hook was a Total False Flag,” among others. He has since clarified that he believes the shooting happened.
“Alex Jones and Infowars are not responsible for this tragedy,” lawyers for Mr. Jones previously argued in the case. “To punish them for First Amendment protected speech on this matter of public concern will not bring back the lives lost.”