The father of the youngest Sandy Hook shooting victim was forced to undergo a full facial disguise before being interviewed on CBS’s 60 Minutes program, in a step to protect his identity from death threats by conspiracy theorists claiming the mass murder never happened.
For years Lenny Pozner has been in hiding after campaigning against internet trolls who spread fake news online.
Pozner’s six-year-old son Noah was the youngest victim of the December 14, 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff.
In the days after the shooting, the tragedy that robbed his son’s life also became the center of a conspiracy plot online.
In internet forums, they claimed that the murders never happened. Instead, they said, it was all part of a Barack Obama-led plot to rid the country of guns.
In an effort to combat the misinformation and conspiracies about the Sandy Hook killings, including that the shootings were staged and involved actors, Pozner publicly published the medical examiner’s report related to his son’s death, as well as Noah’s photos and school records.
However, the conspiracists only spread more theories.
At that point, Pozner said he stopped trying to correct misinformation and founded the HONR Network, a non-profit focused on removing conspiratorial content from platforms like YouTube.
Calling the loose knit community of volunteers through the HONR Network, by mid-2014 Pozner had removed thousands of posts, blog sites, photos, and videos dedicated to intimidating the family and desecrating the memory of Noah and other victims.
The success of these endeavors brought condemnation for the conspiracy theorists, hate groups, and individual harassers, who decried the removals of defaced photos of the six-year-old, personal details about the family, and calls to physically harm the Pozner family, as violations of their right to free speech.
Pozner found himself becoming a target from the conspiracy theorists.
”I was being attacked for the memory of my son. My son’s very short life was being attacked, and I just wasn’t going to stand for that,” said Pozner, appearing heavily disguised on 60 Minutes, in a segment discussing a campaign to have social media companies held responsible for the content they allow online.
In clips published online, Mr Pozner can be seen being heavily transformed by a team of make-up artists with facial prosthetics to hide his identity. In previous interviews his face has also been hidden from view.
Since his son’s death, Pozner has fought against those spreading lies online, and helping those like him who were forced to continuously relive a personal tragedy.
It has meant Pozner has become the subject of death threats by fans and followers of online conspiracy theorist – and has led him to change his address several times.
He has also tried to hide his identity, however people still found him.
Five years ago, inn January 2016, a woman claiming the Sandy Hook shooting was a fake sent threatening messages to Pozner.
In one message said: “Death is coming to you real soon.”
She was later sentenced to five months in prison, according to The Washington Post.
She was an avid follower of known Alex Jones, an American far-right radio show host and conspiracy theorist who runs the online platform InfoWars.
“Conversations denying the tragedy. Accusing the government of staging it,” he said, when asked on 60 Minutes what form the conspiracy theories took.
“That Noah did not die; that I’m not Noah’s father. It all revolves around the notion that these are staged shootings, scripted events, that I’m an actor, that I’m paid, to fake the death of a child.”