The only thing more detestable than NBC News’s all-out embrace of political activism is the short-sighted fanaticism of its so-called journalists.
NBC’s Adele-Momoko Fraser reported on Tuesday that Google had “banned” the Federalist from its advertising platform. The supposed prohibition, her article said, came after NBC brought allegedly problematic articles published by the conservative opinion website to the attention of Google’s censors.
Fraser’s story quoted a Google spokesperson who said the Federalist had run afoul of the tech company’s policy regarding “derogatory” and hateful speech. The same spokesperson said specifically that they had “removed [the Federalist’s] ability to monetize with Google.” The Federalist, Fraser reported, “will no longer be able to generate revenue from any advertisements served by Google Ads.”
This is not true, Google said later.
“The Federalist is not currently demonetized and has the opportunity to address the issue as described below,” a spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner.
Google Communications said elsewhere on social media, “The Federalist was never demonetized. We worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section.”
The communications department added much later Tuesday evening, “As the comment section has now been removed, we consider this matter resolved and no action will be taken.”
NBC has overhauled its original report almost entirely so that it now includes Google’s denials.
Putting aside for a moment the question of whether someone in Silicon Valley is lying, the bigger issue here is that it was NBC that lobbied Google to go after the Federalist’s revenue stream. Try to wrap your mind around that for a minute.
One of the largest and most powerful news organizations in the United States petitioned one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world to demonetize a tiny, U.S.-based website because it published allegedly problematic language. Google complied in a way, going as far as to scrutinize the language of the Federalist’s comments section. If this is not a violation of Google’s “Don’t be evil” corporate code of conduct, it is certainly a violation of the First Amendment principles that NBC claims to honor and defend. Moreover, if we are going to go down this road now as a nation, with major media groups lobbying major corporations to punish smaller media groups for allegedly problematic behaviors, things are going to get a whole lot uglier a whole lot faster in this country.
Fraser and her NBC colleagues probably thought they were doing something righteous when they lobbied Google to deplatform the Federalist. But they instead helped normalize the use of retribution and censorship as the weapons of choice in an increasingly bitter culture war.
So, here is what happened:
A British nonprofit group called the Center for Countering Digital Hate published a paper targeting 10 U.S.-based websites that it said have published racist criticisms of the recent protests surrounding the death of George Floyd. Those websites, the nonprofit group argued, stand to make millions of dollars through Google Ads.
NBC then approached Google with the British activists’ study, demanding a response from the tech giant.
This is where Google and NBC disagree about what happened next.
NBC’s original story quoted a Google spokesperson who said, “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.”
He added, “When a page or site violates our policies, we take action. In this case, we’ve removed [its] ability to monetize with Google.”
A Google spokesperson declined to reconcile the above quote with the company’s current position that it never demonetized the Federalist. A spokesperson for the Federalist did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.
The original NBC report also included a passage where the author bragged that it was her news division, the ironically named “Verification Unit,” that approached Google with the “hate” study, demanding that the tech company do something about the allegedly offensive online content.
“Google blocked the Federalist from its advertising platform after the NBC News Verification Unit brought the project to its attention,” Fraser claimed in a passage that has since been removed from her report.
The Federalist, Fraser explained in the current version of her write-up, has “become well known in recent years for publishing far-right articles on a variety of subjects. … [it] published an article claiming the media had been lying about looting and violence during the protests, which [was] included in the report sent to Google.”
As best as I can tell from that description, the allegedly problematic article in question is a not particularly racist media criticism titled “The Media Are Lying To You About Everything, Including The Riots.” That Federalist article, by the way, is highly critical of NBC.
Google, for its part, disputed most of original NBC report, including the part where it said the Federalist came under scrutiny because of specific articles. Google claims the Federalist’s comments section was the problem, not anything written by staff or contributors.
“We have been told that the Federalist removed comments as of this time,” a spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner.
She added, “When our enforcement team reviews sites, they review the entire sites’ content, including the comment section for policy compliance. In this instance … the notification to the Federalist was related to the comments section of the sites (…this is not a new policy). The comments sections consistently violated our dangerous and derogatory policy.”
Shortly after NBC published its since-amended report on the alleged demonetization of the Federalist, and prior to Google’s multiple denials, Fraser took a victory lap on social media.
“Thanks to [Stop Funding Fake News] and [the Center for Countering Digital Hate] for their hard work and collaboration!” she cheered in a since-deleted tweet featuring the “BlackLivesMatter” hashtag. Fraser tweeted her note of thanks again, but this time without “#BlackLivesMatter,” making it at least her fourth or fifth major edit for that day.
These are not serious people.
These are political activists with an enormous amount of influence and power, and it seems sometimes like they do not even realize it. It is like watching a child play with a loaded gun.
Author: Becket Adams
Source: Washington Examiner: With attack on the Federalist, NBC embraces all-out political activism