Infowars’ Alex Jones to pay $4.1m over Sandy Hook conspiracy claims

5 Aug 2022

Image: © sharafmaksumov/Stock.adobe.com

The American conspiracy theorist was banned from several social media sites in 2018 for spreading hate speech.

A jury has ordered far-right broadcaster Alex Jones to pay $4.1m in defamation damages for claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.

While the Infowars founder acknowledged in court that the school shooting was “100pc real”, he had previously used his website and other platforms to argue that the shooting was staged in a bid to force gun control.

A surprising turn of events during the trial saw the plaintiff’s lawyers reveal that they had inadvertently received two years’ worth of phone data from Jones’ legal team. This revelation came after Jones had failed to produce any messages related to Sandy Hook in the discovery process for the trial and it contradicted his claims under oath that he had no Sandy Hook texts on his phone.

The conspiracy theorist must now pay damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook shooting victim.

While this a major legal reckoning for Jones and his controversial website Infowars, they have been under fire for several years and Big Tech had already taken matters into its own hands.

In August 2018, Apple removed most of Jones’ podcasts, including The Alex Jones Show, for spreading hate speech.

An Apple spokesperson said at the time: “Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users.

“Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

The move from Apple was shortly followed by similar actions from Spotify and YouTube. Spotify said Infowars content “promotes, advocates or incites hatred or violence” and YouTube terminated Jones’ account for violating community guidelines.

A month later, Twitter followed suit, banning both Jones and Infowars from the platform for violating its abusive behaviour policy.

In 2019, the Infowars founder also agreed to pay cartoonist Matt Furie $15,000 and stop using the artist’s well-known image of Pepe the Frog. The cartoon image had become synonymous with the alt-right.

Despite the controversies, Jones’ website still saw almost 8m visits last month, according to data company Similarweb.

Free Speech Systems, which operates Infowars, filed for bankruptcy last week in the latest in a string of financial manoeuvres by Jones.

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Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com