NBC tries and fails to get The Federalist banned from Google

Collaboration between NBC and a foreign entity intent on taking down media platforms with which it disagrees does not speak highly of their journalistic practices.
Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson Montreal, QC

American news outlet The Federalist has reportedly been banned from Google’s advertising platform, according to NBC. The stated reason is that this news and editorial outlet was, as NBC put it, “profiting from articles pushing unsubstantiated claims about the Black Lives Matter protests.” What this would mean is that this outlet would no longer be able to generate income from showing ads served by Google Ads. But it’s not true, Google has not banned The Federalist.

As Scott Nover of AdWeek states, “A Google spokesperson tells me that @NBCNews gets it wrong. Google says The Federalist was notified they *could* be demonetized but hasn't yet been. They can still remedy. Google also says the sites' comments section not any articles were in violation.”

Who were the activists trying to getting Google to cancel The Federalist in the first place? It was none other than NBC themselves: “Google blocked The Federalist from its advertising platform after the NBC News Verification Unit brought the project to its attention,” NBC’s article states. So, NBC is trying to cut off the revenue stream of one of their competitors by getting them kicked off of Google. But there are even more problems with their account of things other than the fact that what they claim is false.

The expert cited in the story wasn’t told the circumstances on which she was commenting. Caroline McCarthy, vice president of communications and content at TrueX, had to go on Twitter to clarify: “When I did this interview I was not aware the story was about ZH/FDRLST. My broader point: Tech companies should have clear guidelines and advertisers should take more agency in where their ads run. Ongoing activist whack-a-mole isn't a lasting strategy,” she tweeted.

McCarthy aptly points out that if The Federalist’s offending content happened to be an op-ed, then this overcorrection—which never happened—would be problematic. “Also, I don't know which Federalist story set off Google's alarm bells, but if it was an op-ed, that's an issue. Publications of all political stripes publish op-eds with contested claims (hi, NYT!) and I don't think tech cos have a good sense of where to draw any kind of line.”

Of course, it’s since been determined that the offending material was found in the comment sections, not in any of The Federalist’s articles. Further, it was not even an American group that brought the complaint, but the leftist, British Centre for Countering Digital Hate that decided that The Federalist was spreading a narrative they didn’t like, and so they, along with NBC, weaponized Google’s advertising platform against them. In fact, the author of the story, Adele-Momoko Fraser, thanked the Center for Countering Digital Hate for their “collaboration” on her story.

Collaboration between NBC and a foreign entity intent on taking down media platforms with which it disagrees does not speak highly of their journalistic practices and also raises questions given that the American election is imminent. Google's collaboration with NBC has led to speculation that the tech giant may be interfering with the upcoming election.

NBC has since stealth-edited their story to clarify that The Federalist has not been demonetized, however their title and lede both still claim that they are banned.

NBC also claimed that ZeroHedge was removed as a result, but Breitbart's Allum Bokari obtained comment that the site is actually working with Google to restore their ad revenue as well.

The lack of journalistic practices was noted by Senator Tom Cotton, whose recent oped at The New York Times sparked a fire storm that took down the editorial department.

“The @FDRLST correctly pointed out media misinformation about the looting and damage from the riots. In return, Google is banning The @FDRLST. This is blatant discrimination against conservatives.”

We can think of a few ways NBC could have avoided this mess, but all of our suggestions require that they do journalism. Sadly, it appears they’re simply not up to it.

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Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson
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