I came across an article at Huffington Post today indicating that despite opposing the White House’s “muslim ban” in federal court, Google, Facebook and Amazon continue to buy advertising from Breitbart.com. Joshua Clark Davis, the author of the HufPo article described Breitbart as “a sexist, racist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim website that enthusiastically promotes fake news and the white nationalist, so-called “’alt right.'” The site made news itself recently when one of its most notable editors, Milo Yiannopoulos made remarks in a video podcast condoning sexual relations with young boys and joked about a sexual experience he allegedly had with a Catholic priest as a teenager.
According to Google’s own AdSense policy, it will not tolerate such content in its advertising network:
“Google ads may not be placed on pages that contain harassing or bullying content, or on content that incites hatred or promotes violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity. Additionally, Google ads may not appear on content that incites or advocates for harm against an individual or group.”
Despite this statement, Google continues to pay Breitbart for display ads requiring members of Google’s advertising network to specifically opt out if they wish to exclude their ad campaigns from Breitbart.com.
Breitbart’s extremist agenda is so objectionable to mainstream cultural sensibilities that more than 1,100 companies pulled their ads from Breitbart including many major multinational corporations such as 3M, AARP, Chase, H&R Block, Kellogg’s, Sprint, T-Mobile and Visa.
Full Channel has successfully recruited new customers via Google AdWords and AdSense campaigns for many years. These efforts have come at a cost but the return on investment advertising with Google tends to be quite good. Hoping to offer Google a chance to explain their position, I decided to contact support to inquire about the contradiction between Google’s policy and its own continued relationship with Breitbart. The response I received was less than satisfactory. The support representative responded that Google transcends politics and “personal views” and went on to describe how I could opt our ad campaigns out of individual sites. However, the Google rep offered no explanation as to why Google itself seemed to be flaunting its own policies when it comes to Breitbart. A transcript of our communications follows below. I will update this page should there be any further developments.
Update -March 1: I received a response from Google’s Director of Global Communications & Public Affairs, Ad & Commerce last night which I have posted below along with my response.
To: Google AdWords Support
Date: February 26, 2017 @ 8:58 AM PST
I learned today that Google continues to do business with Breitbart, a sexist, racist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim website that enthusiastically promotes fake news and the white nationalist, so-called “alt right” movement. Further it has come to my attention that it is possible that AdWords ads for Full Channel, Inc. might appear on this site. I am writing to make it clear that I am vehemently opposed to such activity. If Google cannot assure that our ad campaigns will not appear on Breitbart, we will cease these campaigns immediately. Furthermore, even if Google can assure me that our ads will not appear on Breitbart, we are seriously considering our af liation with Google as it continues to carry on business relationships with Breitbart, a distributor of hate speech, in violation of Google’s own terms of service. http://www.huf ngtonpost.com/entry/why-do-google-amazon-and-facebook-advertise-with_us_58ab9218e4b029c1d1f88e11
From: Google AdWords Support
Date: February 27, 2017 @ 10:06 AM PST
Regardless of any personal views on the matter, breitbart.com is part of the Display Network. So any Display or Video campaigns that you have you would need to enter breitbart.com as a placement exclusion to ensure that your ads do not serve on the site. You can find info about this here: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2454012?hl=en. In order to exclude you would go into either the Display Network or Video Targeting tab, and then into the Placements sub-tab. Here at the bottom you will see a section for Campaign exclusions where you can exclude the site. Thanks for writing in and have a great rest of your day!
Ashish, The Google AdWords Team
To: Google AdWords Support
Date: February 27, 2017 @ 10:19 AM PST
This issue goes beyond any “personal views” and extends to Google’s violation of its own policies against hate speech. Unfortunately, hate speech has recently become normalized in the United States however, Google must recognize that the rhetoric from breitbart.com goes beyond normal political discourse. Headlines that celebrate the confederate flag, condemn gay rights and use terms like ‘renegade Jew’ go beyond my personal political preferences and by most modern sensibilities smack of bigotry and hatred.
Ashish, please be CERTAIN that my sentiments are passed along to your supervisors. Full Channel has spent and continues to spend a fair amount of money with Google AdWords and demands that Google be held accountable to its own policies.
Levi C. Maaia
President, Full Channel Labs
From: Chi Hea Cho – Director of Global Communications & Public Affairs, Ad & Commerce, Google
Date: February 28, 2017 @ 7:09 PM PST
Hi Levi, I was forwarded your email by a colleague.
I wanted to reach out and explain that we do have an existing set of publisher policies that govern where Google ads may be placed in order to protect users from harmful, misleading or inappropriate content. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on individual sites, but we enforce these policies vigorously and regularly review sites to ensure compliance.
If you would like to have a private conversation on this, I’m happy to speak with you further. Please let me know?
Chi Hea Cho
Director of Global Communications & Public Affairs, Ad & Commerce, Google
To: Chi Hea Cho – Director of Global Communications & Public Affairs, Ad & Commerce, Google
Date: March 1, 2017 @ 12:02 PM PST
Chi Hea Cho,
Thank you for the response. I understand that you cannot comment on individual sites so I am not sure what we would discuss since my concerns deal directly with the content on Breitbart.com. Breitbart’s editors have identified the site as an “alt-right” platform, a term coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer to define a movement centered on white nationalism and in his words a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” in the United States. By permitting all of Google AdWords advertisers’ content to appear on Breitbart under the default campaign settings, Google is normalizing and perhaps even creating the appearance of condoning Breitbart’s incendiary language and content.
More generally, my concern is that Google has, through its discretionary AdSense policy, made itself the arbiter of what constitutes content that “incites hatred” or otherwise “promotes violence against individuals.” With such a policy comes the responsibility for Google to act when presented with evidence suggesting that it is sponsoring activity contrary to its own terms, as is the case here. I would argue that headlines such as those I have cited below from Breitbart.com are incendiary and hatful. Either Google should address this issue specifically and publicly, or abdicate its responsibilities as arbiters of its content policy.
Examples of Breitbart’s headlines as compiled by CNN:
‘Science proves it: Fat-shaming works’
‘Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew’
‘Trannies whine about hilarious Bruce Jenner billboard’
‘ “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” ‘
‘Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet’
‘Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage’
Levi C. Maaia
President, Full Channel Labs
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Providence Business News’ Web editor Lori Stabile published a story detailing on how Full Channel is bucking the trend of ISP dissent for the FCC’s new net neutrality rules.
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Providence Business News’ Patricia Daddona published a story detailing TV Everywhere efforts by local TV providers. We discussed how Full Channel is in many ways leading the pack with multi-screen, on-demand viewing.
The Santa Barbara Bar Association used my “Drone over Shoreline Park” photo on the cover of its September 2014 magazine. This photo was released under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 4.0).