Roku may have given itself a brand safety issue. The streaming service has added Infowars, the live show hosted by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as a channel. Jones was in the news on Jan. 11 for losing a legal battle to Sandy Hook shooting victims’ families, forcing his company to turn over documents.
On Jan. 14, Roku users tweeted their concerns at the company. One tweet from @DanielMadison78 asked, “Hey @Roku, what’s with you adding Infowars to your platform?” In a now-deleted tweet, Roku’s support account replied with a link to the channel.
Roku’s move caught the attention of Sleeping Giants, the Twitter account that encourages people to screenshot and call out brand ads on sites with questionable content.
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) January 15, 2019
Another user said they would consider dropping Roku for Amazon’s Fire TV stick.
I was going to buy a second Roku to replace my Firestick, however if you retain Infowars streaming service then I'll just keep the Firestick and deal with no YouTube. Let me know what you plan to do! Thanks!
— this is the bad place (@leighleighbird) January 15, 2019
One user said they would go back to their Apple TV.
@Roku just unplugged the box and going back to Apple TV. Infowars? Wow. Sad day you promote hate groups.
— Not Afraid of You (@rdk1960) January 15, 2019
Roku adding Infowars comes six months after platforms banned Alex Jones. On Aug. 6, Apple, Spotify and Facebook separately but shortly after one another banned Infowars. Twitter finally did later. These decisions come after increasing pressure from reporters like CNN’s Oliver Darcy, questioning how Infowars was abiding by Facebook’s terms of service when they repeatedly shared false news. Even though these platforms banned Infowars, other pages and contributors to the network have appeared on the sites since the bans.
Roku has been impressing advertisers in the war of the streaming services, in part because of the amount of data these advertisers are able to receive from Roku’s 23.8 million registered users. Roku was projected to generate $293 million in 2018, which would make the company the second best OTT advertising sellers in the U.S., under Hulu, according to eMarketer. GroupM’s chief digital investment officer Susan Schiekofer told Digiday her agency has been “leaning in very heavily” to Hulu and Roku.
In a statement, Roku said:
“Our streaming platform allows our customers to choose from thousands of entertainment, news and special interest channels, representing a wide range of topics and viewpoints. Customers choose and control which channels they download or watch, and parents can set a pin to prevent channels from being downloaded. 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. We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint.
We are not promoting or being paid to distribute InfoWars. We do not have any commercial or advertising relationship with InfoWars.
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. 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.”
In a statement later on Jan. 15, Roku said:
“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.”
This story has been updated with Roku’s statements.