Remember Alex Jones?
For much of 2018, the conspiracy theorist used his wildly popular Infowars show to spread his noxious claims on multiple platforms, antics that included attacking teenage mass shooting survivors, threatening Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and claiming NASA controls the U.S. government. That all came to a crashing halt in August when Jones was collectively banned from Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify for violating their policies against hate speech. Jones then briefly attempted to move Infowars to Vimeo, but was promptly banned there as well.
Since then, Jones has been doing his utmost to bring Infowars back to a mainstream platform, with little success. The most recent rejection came from the video-streaming service Roku, which made an abrupt reversal and decided not to host Jones’ programming.
Digiday first reported this week that Roku, which has an estimated 27 million users, had allowed Jones to set up a new, free channel on its platform. An intense backlash quickly followed, including from Sleeping Giants, the activist group aiming to persuade sponsors to drop certain media figures. Lawyers representing families of Sandy Hook shooting victims, who are currently suing Jones, also voiced their outrage.
“There is no amount of anticipated revenue that could possibly justify Roku’s calculated decision,” Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the Sandy Hook families said in a statement. Another lawyer for the families, Mark Bankston, said Roku was “indifferent to the suffering caused by Mr. Jones’ continued onslaught of cruelty and reckless lies.”
This collective backlash forced Roku to kick Jones off the platform, leaving Infowars without a mainstream home yet again. “After the Infowars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform,” Roku said Tuesday in a statement. “Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.”
Jones maintains that he is a victim of conspiracy to censor him.
The deplatforming is latest in a series of blows for Jones. Last Friday, a judge in Connecticut ruled in a defamation suit, leveled against Jones by the families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, that the plaintiffs should be given access to internal Infowars documents, which include letters, memos, emails, and text messages. Jones has consistently maintained that the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting was a “false flag” operation, which has led to years of harassment and abuse for the parents of survivors.
One of the plaintiffs’ chief arguments is that Jones peddled misinformation and fake news in order to sell Infowars merchandise — most infamously, his supplements which, according to an analysis by Buzzfeed News, were basically the same as normal pharmaceutical supplements.
Despite Jones’ ban on Facebook, however, he has quietly returned to the site under a different name. The Facebook page NewsWars, which right now has close to 30,000 followers, consistently links to Infowars articles and live-streams. According to a Washington Post report from last November, the videos on the page had received a total of 3.9 million views.
Responding to the story at the time, Jones acknowledged that his social media staff occasionally suggest content for NewsWars, but that he doesn’t manage the page personally, meaning it escaped the dragnet of Facebook’s banning. There’s also the fact that, during the initial banning, Facebook looked at each of Jones’ pages for individual violations. This means that as long Jones himself does not directly run the page, and does not include any content that breaks Facebook’s community guidelines, he can continue to quietly get his message out through NewsWars.
Jones also has other work-arounds to continue to propagate his message. He still maintains his own Infowars website, which broadcasts a mix of conspiracy-mongering and far-right paranoia. Additionally, while Jones is banned from posting onto YouTube from his channel, a large number of smaller YouTube channels have ripped his shows and re-posted them, making it possible to see nearly all of his Infowars content — just slightly repackaged.