Roku Furiously Backpedals After Briefly Saying It Would Allow Infowars Channel

Alex Jones in September 2018.
Photo: Jose Luis Magana (AP)

Alex Jones, chief of noxious conspiracy website and suspicious supplement sales front Infowars, was kicked off most of the web’s biggest platforms last year amid legal battles over his alleged harassment and defamation of mass shooting survivors’ families: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Apple, Spotify, and Pinterest, to name a few. But recently, Digiday noted on Tuesday, Infowars somehow made its way back onto streaming service Roku’s Channel Store.

Unfortunately for Jones and Infowars, that did not last long at all—Roku is getting rid of him. However, the company initially dug in its feet and refused to do so.

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In statement to TechCrunch earlier on Tuesday, Roku dredged up the same “We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint” arguments that other platforms ran into the ground while justifying their inaction on Jones. Considering that this was a major, months-long controversy in 2018 that has mostly been resolved, Roku’s statement could probably be best described as utterly tiresome:

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.

We are not promoting or being paid to distribute InfoWars. We do not have a commercial relationship with the InfoWars.

While open to many voices, we have policies that prohibit the publication of content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights, among other things. If we determine a channel violates these policies, it will be removed. To our knowledge, InfoWars is not currently in violation of these content policies.

“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,” Josh Koskoff of law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, who is representing several families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in a civil suit against Jones, told TechCrunch. “Worse, it interferes with families’ efforts to prevent people like Jones from profiting off innocent victims whose lives have been turned upside down by unspeakable loss.”

Fortunately, Roku has realized this was perhaps the wrong time to re-ignite the debate over Jones and Infowars (sped along by the withering criticism the company received on social media).

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“After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform,” Roku told Gizmodo in a statement later in the day. “Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.”

Infowars makes the bulk of its money—at least $20 million in revenue annually before last year’s bans, according to the New York Times—selling supplements with names like “Super Male Vitality” or “Brain Force Plus.” In September 2018, roughly a month after most major platforms showed him the door, the Times reported that Jones’ daily audience (including Infowars.com traffic and views on YouTube and Facebook) had plunged from 1.4 million views to 715,000. While Jones has persisted in part by relying more on those Infowars-affiliated accounts that survived the wave of bans, he told the Washington Post in November 2018 that Facebook referrals to Infowars itself had plummeted. That’s probably cut into his cash flow, to put it lightly.

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Last week, Jones suffered another major defeat when a judge ruled that he must turn over internal Infowars documents to the Sandy Hook parents suing him for defamation—something that could expose him to even more scrutiny.

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About the author

Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post