One of the internet’s most elusive questions — who funds the Federalist? — has finally been answered. Well, sort of. NBC announced Tuesday that Google would be banning the Federalist from its ad platform, meaning the conservative website will no longer be able to earn money from running Google ads.
The Federalist was targeted alongside ZeroHedge, a right-wing financial blog. Or so NBC claimed.
‘We have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on and explicitly prohibit derogatory content that promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race from monetizing,’ a Google spokesperson said of the decision. ‘When a page or site violates our policies, we take action. In this case, we’ve removed both sites’ ability to monetize with Google.’
The ‘derogatory’ content in question included an article published by the Federalist in which they accuse the larger media of lying about the presence of rioting and looting during the George Floyd protests. It’s unclear why exactly that claim would be considered problematic considering CNN’s Brian Stelter tried to gaslight his followers just last week by suggesting there hadn’t been any new riots. That was around the same time that activists in Seattle ran police out of a local precinct and created an ‘autonomous zone’ manned by armed ‘warlords’. If criticizing the mainstream media is grounds for being banned from Google’s ad platform, Cockburn surmises that every conservative outlet is at risk. Thank goodness The Spectator is more cocktail party than political party, eh?
NBC News revealed in an article that they were the ones who ‘brought’ the article to Google’s ‘attention’. But NBC News conveniently skated around the fact that they did activism rather than journalism to get the Federalist banned. Adele-Momoko Fraser, the author of the NBC News piece, revealed on Twitter that she had done a ‘collaboration’ with an advocacy group, the Center for Countering Digital Hate. Much like Media Matters posts out-of-context Tucker Carlson clips to drum up outrage against his advertisers, the CCDH flags articles it deems racist or bigoted and then advocates for their censorship by big tech companies. CCDH announced that getting the Federalist banned from Google’s ad platform was its ‘biggest ever win’.
Fraser similarly celebrated her victory over the ‘far-right’ Federalist, pinning her tweet about her collaborating with the CCDH to the top of her Twitter timeline. Cockburn, who has an eye for anglicisms, noticed she used the British spelling of ‘enquiry’ in her article. Perhaps Fraser’s London background, if not her activism on behalf of the Labour party, can partially explain her distaste for the concept of freedom of speech.
Update 6/16 5:50pm:
Google is now contradicting its spokesperson’s earlier statement to NBC News, tweeting, ‘The Federalist was never demonetized.’ According to Google, the Federalist‘s non-compliance with its ad policy was related to the comments section, not any particular article on the website. The Federalist will have three days to clean up the comment section before it is demonetized. This, of course, raises further questions about the rationality of Google’s ad policy since news websites are usually exempt from liability for their comment sections under Section 230.
NBC News updated its article about the alleged ad ban, noting, ‘After publication of this story, Google added that it takes into account all of the content on a website including comments to determine if a policy violation has occurred, which is where the policy violations occurred.’
The author has since deleted her celebratory tweets.
Cockburn finds it quite ironic that the NBC News Verification Center, the project behind this attempt at rooting out fake news, has been caught spreading its own misinformation.