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Roku Faces Criticism Over Infowars Channel

Streaming device maker Roku faced a backlash Tuesday over its decision to carry a channel for Infowars, the controversial website of right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The company responded by saying that Infowars wasn’t currently violating its terms of use.

The uproar over Roky carrying Infowars comes a few months after most other major platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Apple’s app store, removed Jones and his outlet from their services. It was first reported by Digiday.

Jones and Infowars have frequently posted conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as the Sandy Hook school shooting. Prior to being booted from most major platforms, Jones on occasion had individual videos removed for hate speech and other terms of use violations.

Infowars had been on Roku for years with a channel apparently created by Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson. In recent weeks, the company added another channel that seems to have been created by an outside web development company.

That new channel caught the attention of Twitter users, whose plights with Roku to remove the channel were picked up by Sleeping Giants, a progressive advocacy group that frequently organizes advertiser boycotts against outlets with far-right pundits.

“Such a cynical move by Roku,” the group said in a tweet. “In light of very public lawsuits against him by the Sandy Hook parents who’ve been targeted by him, why would they decide now to stream his show?”

After being disparaged by Jones on his show, parents of schoolchildren murdered in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting won a legal victory last week, with a judge deciding that they were allowed to review financial records and other documents as part of the discovery process in an ongoing lawsuit against Infowars.

An attorney representing several of these families also criticized the company for carrying Infowars in a statement released Tuesday afternoon:

“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. 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. We call on Roku to realize this and immediately pull the program.”

Roku said Tuesday that it had currently no reason to drop the Infowars channel from its platform. “We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint,” the company said in a statement, which also pointed out that there were thousands of channels with a wide range of topics and viewpoints in the Roku channel store.  “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,” the statement continued.

Roku also said that it doesn’t have a commercial relationship with Infowars, and that it doesn’t sell ads or receive any fees for carrying the channel.

“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,” the statement concluded. “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.”

It’s worth noting that Roku isn’t the only company still carrying an Infowars app or channel. Google continues to offer an Infowars app on Google Play. That app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, according to publicly available Google Play data.

Update: 1:50pm: This was updated with a statement from an attorney representing some of the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.

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