Roku pulls new Alex Jones and InfoWars channel after backlash
UPDATE: Hours after this story was posted, Roku tweeted that it would delete InfoWars from the platform.
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
Months after being banned by major platforms like Apple and YouTube, Alex Jones and InfoWars have found a new home on Roku, where a streaming channel for the site was discovered this week.
A spokeswoman for Roku said that the company does not have a financial relationship with InfoWars and does not deliver any ads to the channel, but that so far Alex Jones' network, which has been widely criticized for promoting conspiracy theories, has not broken any rules to warrant a ban.
"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," a Roku spokeswoman said by e-mail on Tuesday. "We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint."
Digiday was first to report Tuesday on the news regarding InfoWars' new safe haven.
Jones has been a source of trouble for platforms with his daily streaming show that is rife with talk of conspiracies and fear mongering. He is perhaps most famous for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was a false flag operation and that the victims' families were actors.
InfoWars was banned by YouTube in August for videos that included hate-speech and depicted violence. Facebook followed suit by removing pages affiliated with Jones, but new pages have since sprung up on the social network to stream his show.
Twitter also removed Jones' account, while Apple blocked his content from iTunes. Spotify also banned him.
Now, Roku is facing heat for letting InfoWars onto its service, with some users on Twitter claiming they would look for rival services like Amazon Fire TV in response. And the attorney representing the Sandy Hook victims' families, who are suing Jones, blasted Roku for allowing the channel to operate and asked the company to change its position.
"We call on Roku to realize this and immediately pull the program," said Josh Koskoff with the firm Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder, in a prepared statement on Tuesday. "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."
Roku is a growing force in streaming media with its devices, and it has reported there are 27 million accounts on its service. It competes with Amazon, Apple TV and YouTube TV by delivering mainstream media apps to televisions without the need for a cable subscription. In the third quarter, Roku's "platform revenue" reached $100 million, two-thirds of which comes from advertising.
Advertisers have pressured digital platforms to account for the content they have coursing through their pipes, fearing their messages will cross paths with objectionable material. The brand concerns were heightened nearly two years ago when advertisers discovered ads running with YouTube videos that contained content related to terrorism and racism.
Also, the fake news issues from the 2016 presidential election forced platforms to re-evaluate what types of content creators are allowed to set up shop on their services, and which media services they help generate ad revenue.
"InfoWars is obviously a polarizing media entity that a lot of brands do not want to be associated with," says Christopher Ross, Gartner analyst and senior director, who works with CMOs on marketing and business strategies. "Platforms like Roku need a story to tell brands if they are concerned about safety, and brands have to make risk decisions if they want to be on any platform."