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Far-right agitator Alex Jones has been deleting social media posts about his conspiracy theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, which took the lives of 20 children and six adults, was a government hoax.
A Friday court filing on behalf of the father of a victim of the attack claims the removal amounts to destruction of evidence. The deletion of content that reflects Jones' view of the tragedy as a manufactured story using actors means that evidence is lost, the motion for sanctions claims.
Jones has been under pressure from critics who believe he and his Infowars brand shouldn't have free reign to inflict pain on victims via social media platforms. Facebook, YouTube and Apple have taken steps to remove Jones and Infowars. Twitter put Jones' account on a seven-day timeout Tuesday after finding that a post linking to a video in which he told his listeners to get “battle rifles” ready was a violation of its terms.
Infowars' reports and videos on Sandy Hook have blamed victims' parents, as well as the government, for manufacturing what it states was a hoax. Parents have been singled out by Jones, and his followers have issued threats against them.
Jones said during an Infowars broadcast last week that he instructed staffers to delete some social media posts in reaction to a news report the previous day that pointed out several posts appeared to violate Twitter's rules.
" ... It is clear from Mr. Jones’ own admissions that relevant evidence has been lost," the filing reads. "As pressure mounted from pending defamation lawsuits and growing public indignation, Mr. Jones chose to destroy the evidence of his actual malice and defamatory conduct ... "
Southern California journalist Brooke Binkowski has been tracking Jones' social media, and her work was cited in the Texas claim. It states Binkowski "was able to confirm that specific InfoWars messages" were deleted after news reports came out about their apparent violation of Twitter's rules.
"I think he might have deleted every single reference to Sandy Hook parents," she told NBC News.
But while the filing claims "these materials are fruitful sources of evidence," Binkowski says she has preserved it. "I got it all," she said.
The claim was filed on behalf of Sandy Hook parent Neil Heslin, a plaintiff in a larger defamation suit against Jones. His attorney, Mark D. Bankston, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jones, Infowars and Twitter also did not respond.
Heslin is seeking fees, costs and court sanctions, and he also wants the court to regard the deleted material, including "hours of video," as "defamatory in their own right."