Claire Atkin and Nandini Jammi founded the nonprofit group Check My Ads to help advertisers find out where their online ads were being placed, in case they might find the websites not aligned with their company’s culture and interests. In essence to make sure their brand was affiliated with sites they could support and were cleansed of “misinformation.”
Check My Ads began as an aggressive fact-checker for misinformation and successfully pulled sponsorships from such conservative voices as Steve Bannon, Glenn Beck, and Dan Bongino. But it is becoming apparent that this organization has a clear political motivation. Now, to save the soul of the nation, Atkin and Jammi have decided it’s time to eliminate any conservative free expression no matter the platform. Never mind the nation they purport to preserve was created to ensure the ability of all to speak freely and unfettered.
But, so far, these mom-jeans-wearing gals seem to target only conservative sites for demolition by alerting brands that they might want to put their ad dollars in other places. Their newest bull’s-eyes are the most popular and highest-rated cable news station, Fox News, and its star show host Tucker Carlson.
In a statement, Fox News dismissed the campaign as another attempt at censorship, saying, “There’s no greater threat to democracy than the effort to silence free speech.”
Censorship by the Back Door?
The process the company uses is relatively simple: apply public pressure on the hidden engines of the online advertising world. In the industry, it’s called ad exchanges – an aspect of digital advertising in which an estimated $521 billion was spent just last year. Companies like Google and Verizon – and many smaller ones – bid for ad time. Obviously, Fox News is a significant return on investment and a good bet. Most exchanges have rules, albeit broad in scope, but Check My Ads is committed to stay away from sites that promote violence or call for an overthrow of the government.
Some exchanges have content rules that say they will not place ads on sites that promote the subversion of government or glorify mayhem. That sounds right and good, yet it may provide a very large tent for censorship.
Liberty Nation consults with K Moody & Associates on such internet marketing practices. To explain further, founder Ken Moody said:
“Google Ads (formerly AdWords) keeps many websites free or at a reduced subscription price by subsidizing the website’s revenue via auction-based ads. In addition, Google typically protects consumers via policies that prevent misleading ads, clickbait, and ads promoting products that require regulation like prescriptions from the advertiser side of the exchange.”
Seems fair for the free market, right? But Moody continued, “Google reviews publishers before approving them for their ad network to ensure they meet a minimum quality. So pressuring Google to block sites on the publishing side of the exchange that has already been approved seems more about censorship or pushing an agenda than protecting consumers or the American public.”
Conservative Voices Are Targeted
These gals maintain that Fox News and specifically Carlson did “promote violence or call for an overthrow of the government.” It’s a murky claim at best, but companies wishing to place ads may feel intense public pressure to avoid Fox on cable and specifically the online platform.
Mikel Ellcessor, Check My Ads’ chief operating officer, pointed to the Fox docuseries Patriot Purge as promoting violence that was “instigated by the left,” although the organization won’t call the incarcerated hundreds that were present at the Jan. 6 protest political prisoners. But he told NPR: “What happens on Fox News television helps fund all of their digital properties. You don’t get to claim that your hands are free and clean when you put a dollar into the Fox News operation.” Now whether that is a warning advertisers might heed has yet to be determined.
After an exchange called Freewheel dropped Steve Bannon’s Real America’s Voice, another exchange called OpenX blocked Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, and Google severed ties with Bongino’s website, a disturbing pattern seemed to be emerging. At the same time, liberal voices remained essentially – some might say entirely – unaffected. Nevertheless, Check My Ads called the suggestion that it is responsible for diverting millions of dollars from conservative sites a good first step.
The girls apparently haven’t checked the exchanges at such online news platforms as MSNBC and CNN. And so it seems that sites still reporting on the Steele dossier, Russia collusion, and scores of other political hoaxes are protected from the heavy thumb of Check My Ads and massive advertising pull-outs. The critical thinker might ask: Got First Amendment?
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