LOS ANGELES—Streaming player Roku has come under fire for bringing banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars video channel back online.
Jones, who has called the Sandy Hook school shootings a “hoax,” was thrown off Apple, Facebook, Spotify and other online platforms in 2018.
“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 representing several Sandy Hook families suing Jones.
“We call on Roku to realize this and immediately pull the program.”
A #boycottroku hashtag was beginning to trend Tuesday as news got out about Roku and Jones. It was first reported by DigiDay.
“I’ll be taking my viewing elsewhere if you allow InfoWars on your platform,” noted Bryce Good on Twitter.
Roku used a 1st Amendment defense. “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,” said Roku, in a statement. “We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint.
Roku said it has policies that prohibit the publication of content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights. “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 is the most used streaming player, with a 32.4 percent market share, according to market researcher eMarketer, compared to 26.6 percent for Amazon and 13.2 percent for Apple TV.
The company has been trying to expand beyond the low-priced streaming devices, which cost from $25 to $100, by selling more advertising to reach its audience base. Nearly $300 million in ad revenue was expected to be reaped by Roku for 2018, according to eMarketer. The inclusion of Jones on Roku could make it tougher for the company to bring in new advertisers, who prefer non-controversy.
Apple kicked off the stampede to ban Jones in August when it kicked him off the Apple Podcasts platform. “Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users.” Apple was followed by Stitcher, Facebook, LinkedIn, Periscope, YouTube and many other companies.
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