The Federalist and Zero Hedge Warned By Google Over Racist Comments

Far right websites The Federalist and Zero Hedge are being warned about racist comments on their websites. Google said it could pull ad revenue.

They are known for pushing far right conspiracy theories and are accused of fostering racism. Now, it seems that Google is reaching the end of their patience with these sites. The two websites have been warned about racism in their comments section. The message seems to be that either the sites start cracking down on violent racism or risk having those pages on their sites demonotized. Those websites apparently run Google Ads for monetary support.

Earlier reports suggested that the sites were completely demonetized, but it turns out, that hasn’t actually happened in any capacity. From The Verge:

NBC News reported the change earlier today, and it followed a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which called out a number of companies for hosting ads on sites promoting unsubstantiated or false claims about recent Black Lives Matter protests. It cited a Zero Hedge article calling Black Lives Matter “practically a revolutionary operative of the CIA via [George] Soros,” as well as a Federalist story blaming violence and looting at protests on “left-wing anarchists and antifa groups.” The Federalist has previously been criticized after organizing posts with the tag “black crime” and promoting “chickenpox parties” for catching the novel coronavirus.

But a Google spokesperson told The Verge that the outlets weren’t being demonetized because of these articles, and The Federalist wasn’t formally banned yet. Instead, they sites were supposedly being blocked because of endemic racist commenters across their articles. Google says Zero Hedge was warned last week and failed to address the problem.

The Federalist was warned and set to be demonetized within a few days, but Google’s communications team issued a followup tweet saying that “The Federalist was never demonetized,” and “we worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section.” Google’s spokesperson tells The Verge that The Federalist removed racist comments after the NBC article’s publication; as of this writing, they’re simply turned off altogether.

Techdirt is target=”_blank”>noting that this came after a UK based operation that is currently attempting to defund websites that promote racism. The site lists a number of far right websites and levelling accusations of racism citing examples as reasons why those sites should be defunded. The site itself is declaring victory that it has defunded The Federalist with a giant stamp over the screenshot that says “defunded”, but as other reports indicate, Google never defunded that site in any capacity.

Right wing commentators tried to defend the two websites. In one instance, an opinion piece from The National Review incorrectly cites a passage from an article as the cause and says that the sites are not racist and tries to say that it’s all just a big conspiracy from “the left”:

Neither NBC News nor Google offered a single example backing up their contention that the Federalist has peddled racist sentiments about Black Lives Matter. As far as I can ascertain, their problem is with one piece:

The Federalist published an article claiming the media had been lying about looting and violence during the protests, which were both included in the report sent to Google.

There is plenty of justification for the offending argument. Major networks have consistently downplayed the rioting and looting that have taken place over the past few weeks because such activity undermines the notion that Black Lives Matter is wholly peaceful. You may disagree with the characterization, but it’s certainly not bigoted. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be shielded from criticism. No one should be.

The Left’s illiberal impulse to quash opinions it dislikes is getting increasingly brazen — and dangerous. And it won’t stop here.

Of course, the piece is simply incorrect in saying that it was a passage in the article that triggered all of this. It was actually the comments in the article that triggered Google action. Additionally, as Google points out, the sites were never actually demonotized and the articles comments were then moderated to remove the offending content. With the incorrect assumption that it was the article that triggered the action, the argument and conclusion collapses.

Google is, of course, well within their rights to demonotize pages they see as violating their rules. They are, after all, a private company and not a government entity. In this case, Google actually acted very reasonable with the sites in this case. They contacted the sites administration, alerted them to content that violates their rules, and action was taken accordingly. In short, the sites were actually given the royal treatment compared to, say, YouTubers who often get censored based on a single complaint and nothing more. If there is an argument to be made about unfair treatment, it’s that these sites got preferential treatment.

Still, non of this will likely change the political narrative of right wing conspiracy theorists. They will likely try and spin this into a story about anything their flights of imagination will take them. This can range from this all being a giant liberal conspiracy to silence the right to NBC being responsible for the complaints to, well, anything else they want to read into it. Nothing is stopping them from making these wild claims. The thing is, if they want to get that sweet sweet Google Adsense revenue, they’ll also need to play by Google’s rules whether they like it or not.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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