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Alex Jones was ordered to pay $965 million to people affected by his false reporting about the Sandy Hook school shooting. The largest single award was $120 million for Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter was killed in the shooting.
The backstory: After the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26, including 20 children, Alex Jones used his news outlet, Infowars, to promote the idea that the shooting was a government hoax and that the parents of the deceased children were paid actors. The parents claimed that as a result of the misinformation that Jones helped spread, they were harassed, received death threats, and were emotionally harmed.
What Jones claimed: After a string of lawsuits in 2019, Alex Jones addressed the controversy. “I legitimately thought it might have been staged, and I stand by that, and I don’t apologize for it,” he said. “My opinions have been wrong, but they were never wrong consciously to hurt people.” He also claimed that he wasn’t the only one discussing the conspiracy theory—channels on YouTube were flooded with similar videos at the time, and there were dozens of other commentators online.
Does Jones have a billion dollars? It’s not likely, but Infowars has brought in high revenue over the years. Despite being deplatformed from major social media platforms, Jones’ news outlet brought in more than $100 million in the past decade. A forensic economist estimated that Infowars is worth up to $270 million.
Media misinformation: Some view the case as a double standard of media misinformation. Considering the abundance of hoaxes that originated from the mainstream media in the past six years alone, many point to the fact that what Jones did was no different—yet, he has been punished while other institutions like CNN and NBC haven’t and likely won’t be, even with new lawsuits brought against them.
Free speech: Others have a hard time grappling with the free speech implications of this outcome for other independent news outlets. With the purposefully excessive ruling, Infowars is likely to shut down. Former Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that “while a billion dollars doesn’t solve the [parents’] pain,” shutting down Infowars is a “public service.”
Justice: “Speech is free, but lies you have to pay for” is the opening statement from the parents’ lawyers in the last lawsuit against Jones. Those opposed to Jones and his politics see the excessive ruling as a proper punishment for false information.