Roku Bans Alex Jones, InfoWars from Streaming Platform
Yes, the paranoid lunatic is a mega-troll, but the beauty of new media means never having to engage stuff you find awful or offensive.
Roku's digital media players let users stream all sorts of channels and sites on their TVs. Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu, and thousands of other channels flow through it in households all over the country.
Now Roku is getting into the deplatforming game:
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.
— Roku (@Roku) January 16, 2019
It should go without saying that Roku, as a private business, has the right to bounce whomever they want. But as with similar actions at places such as Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon, I think this sort of decision is a troubling sign of a crackdown taking place throughout online media. Nobody would assume that Roku's owners, employees, or shareholders were supporting InfoWars' most infamous host, Alex Jones, as he spins wild conspiracy theories and screams at a pile of dog shit. And the way Roku works, you never have to see anything you don't want—it's a strong "pull" platform, meaning the user has to seek channels out. Assuming you do somehow run into content you find offensive, you can make sure you never see it again.
That's part of the magic of most new media, and it's a benefit that should be talked about more. You really can ignore that which you find awful, for whatever reason. Across various platforms, I don't think I've ever encountered anything by Alex Jones or his pals unless I purposefully searched for it. When it comes to producing and consuming content online, the rule is from each according to his psychosis, to each according to his taste.
A better policy for the big social media platforms, I think, is to ban only stuff that is clearly illegal, such as true threats. This sort of censorious behavior starts with the Alex Joneses of the world, but mission creep inevitably sets in and more scalps get taken. New media platforms give us access to virtually whatever we want, but they also give us near-complete control of our user experience. It's a shame to start winnowing down options just because some content makers are sad sacks of shit.