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Roku defends decision to host InfoWars amid online backlash (updated)
The attorney for the Sandy Hook families currently suing InfoWars issued a response saying Roku’s decision was ‘an insult to the memory’ of the shooting’s victims.
Streaming service Roku defended its decision to add conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars show to its platform as a supported channel in a public statement released on Tuesday. The response came in the wake of widespread anger on social media from its users.
The company told users that it was a neutral platform and that if any content was found to be in violation of its policies it would be removed.
“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. We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint,” the company said.
A Twitter account called Sleeping Giants—operated by an activist campaign which targets companies that advertise on far-right shows and platforms—was first to flag Roku’s decision to host InfoWars early Tuesday.
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) January 15, 2019
From there outraged users pushed the #boycottroku hashtag on Twitter, prompting some to threaten to stop using the service altogether.
I was going to buy a second Roku to replace my Firestick, however if you retain Infowars streaming service then I'll just keep the Firestick and deal with no YouTube. Let me know what you plan to do! Thanks!
— this is the bad place (@leighleighbird) January 15, 2019
@Roku just unplugged the box and going back to Apple TV. Infowars? Wow. Sad day you promote hate groups.
— Not Afraid of You (@rdk1960) January 15, 2019
Just last week, Jones and his media outlet were back in the news after being forced to hand over internal documents as part of a lawsuit with the Sandy Hook school shooting victims’ families.
When the tragedy took place, Jones alleged that the victims and their relatives were “crisis actors” and the entire massacre was a government false-flag operation. As a result, the families say they received death threats and were harassed.
It’s just one of the many conspiracy theories that Jones and his network have peddled.
As far as Roku is concerned, that past does not matter and Jones has not violated its company policies to date. However, it made clear it would take action if an incident were to arise.
What makes Roku’s move so strange is that it runs counter to how other media platforms have responded to InfoWars. Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, Apple, Pinterest, YouPorn and LinkedIn all permanently banned the conspiracy show in quick succession last year.
Last week, the Daily Dot published an investigation revealing the ways InfoWars was trying to circumvent the bans.
After hearing that the streaming company, which has over 24 million registered users, would stand its ground on the matte, the attorney representing the Sandy Hook families issued a statement of his own.
“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… We call on Roku to realize this and immediately pull the program,” Josh Koskoff said. “There is no amount of anticipated revenue that could possibly justify Roku’s calculated decision.”
Update 7:50pm CT, Jan. 15: In the wake of significant backlash, Roku announced it was pulling InfoWars’ content and app from its service.
After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform. Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.
— Roku (@Roku) January 16, 2019
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.