No, Google Didn't Demonetize The Federalist & It's Not An Example Of Anti-Conservative Bias
from the another-day-another-story dept
So, earlier today, NBC reported that Google had “banned” two well known websites from its ad platform, namely The Federalist and Zero Hedge. The story was a bit confusing. To be clear, both of those sites are awful and frequently post unmitigated garbage, conspiracy theories, and propaganda. But, it turns out the story was highly misleading, though it will almost certainly be used to push the false narrative that the big internet companies are engaged in “anti-conservative bias” in moderation practices. But that’s wrong. Indeed, it appears what happened is exactly what Google has done to us in the past, in saying that because of certain comments people put on our stories, they were pulling any Google ads from appearing on that page. Now we’ve explained why this is a dumb policy, that only encourages bad comments on sites to try to demonetize them, but it’s not got anything to do with “anti-conservative bias.” Also, it’s just pulling ads from a single page, not across the board.
But that’s not how NBC presented it. Indeed, NBC’s coverage is weird in its own way. It took a report from a UK-based operation that put together a blacklist of websites it says should be “defunded” for “racist fake news.” Of course, “racist” is in the eye of the beholder, and “fake news” is not a very useful term here, but whatever. NBC reporters took this report and reached out to Google to ask about these particular pages, and that set off Google’s usual review processes, and the recognition that some of the comments on the page violated Google’s ad policies on “dangerous and derogatory” content (the same thing we got dinged for above). Google, as it does, alerted the Federalist to this content and warned that if it wasn’t corrected, ads would be removed on that page (Google claims that Zero Hedge’s page had already gone through this process prior to the communication from NBC). While the fact that Google did a review after NBC’s request for comment may upset some, this is the nature of content moderation: much of it happens after an inbound report is made in some form or another.
Of course, as the story got bigger and bigger and spun out of control, even Google had to come out and clarify that The Federalist was never demonetized, but rather that they called out specific comments that would lead to ads being pulled on that page:
Our policies do not allow ads to run against dangerous or derogatory content, which includes comments on sites, and we offer guidance and best practices to publishers on how to comply. https://t.co/zPO669Yd0p
— Google Communications (@Google_Comms) June 16, 2020
Again, this sounds exactly like what happened to us last year. But, still, tons of people are calling the NBC story an example of anti-conservative bias. I’ll bet none of those people called this “anti-tech reporter bias” when it happened to us last year.