Roku U-turn over streaming Alex Jones’s InfoWars

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Apple’s ban of Alex Jones’s InfoWars podcasts last August led to similar moves by several other technology companies

Video-streaming service Roku has made a U-turn over its addition of InfoWars – the right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s channel.

Social media activists noticed Roku was offering the channel earlier this week, half a year after YouTube, Facebook and Apple, among others, had banned it.

Roku initially defended the decision on the grounds it did not censor content unless it was illegal.

But it has backtracked, after facing widespread criticism.

Roku makes set-top boxes and video-streaming sticks that provide access to thousands of channels of third-party content.

In addition, its technology is built into several brands of smart TVs and Blu-ray players.

The California-based company recently declared it had nearly 24 million active accounts.

It thus provided Jones a mainstream outlet after others, including Twitter, Spotify and Vimeo, had joined a wider ban and blocked his accounts last year.

This censorship had been criticised by some free speech advocates and Roku appeared to side with them when it issued an initial statement.

“We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint,” it said.

“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.”

But it subsequently faced a backlash that included criticism by lawyers representing the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Jones had previously falsely claimed that the 2012 massacre had been “staged” with actors and that the 26 children and adults killed had not been harmed.

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Roku

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Roku says it is installed on more than 25% of all smart TVs sold in the US

The lawyers accused Roku of being “indifferent to the suffering” the families had experienced and added that the company was interfering with “efforts to prevent people like Jones from profiting off innocent victims whose lives have been turned upside down by unspeakable loss”.

Several hours later, Roku said it had changed its mind.

“After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform,” it tweeted.

“Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.”

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