In his second legal loss on the subject, Alex Jones of Infowars was ordered by a jury to pay $965 million in damages to families claiming harm from his claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.
The verdict is absurdist considering Infowars is worth nowhere near $965 million and the scope of damage is not close to a wrongful death payout which even then seldomly reaches $1 billion.
Petitioners in the case cited harassment online, stalking, threats, and one cited a Jones follower urinating on their child’s grave. All of these things are terrible and no one should be excused from perpetrating those crimes. Jones probably is liable for making false claims which is an illegal form of speech (for example he accused some of the families of being paid actors). There is no disputing the petitioner’s right to challenge slander in court or that some of these families suffered because of fans of Infowars.
However, the amount of damages is clearly a miscarriage of justice. Not only will the families never actually see that money because it’s a ridiculous amount – it’s not even close to a usual amount for a case such as this. Looking at another high profile case of libel/slander, the Depp v. Heard trial, Depp was awarded only $10.3 million and he could prove direct loss of income in larger quantities than that amount. When Stormy Daniels unsuccessfully sued (and also unsuccessfully appealed) Donald Trump for defamation, she only sought $75,000 even though in her claim she feared bodily harm and had to hire two bodyguards.
$965 million is a symbolic slap on the wrist to Jones and others like him who may forget to use the word “allegedly” when discussing theories and ideas.