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:

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.

Filed Under: advertisements, bias, comments, content moderation, content moderation at scale, dangerous and derogatory
Companies: google, the federalist, zero hedge


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 8:31pm

    It's an election year, what did you expect? Nonpartisan journalism? Like, perhaps, something along the lines of:

    "The inveterate liars of the __ are evidently endeavoring to palm off upon a noble and chivalrous people another of their vile and brutal falsehoods with regard to that most glorious conception of the century, the . The idea that __ originated in their own fulsome brains--or rather in the settlings which they regard as brains. They had better, swallow this lie if they want to save their abandoned reptile carcasses the cowhiding they so richly deserve.

    "That ass, , of the , is down here again sponging at the _____.

    "We observe that the besotted blackguard of the _ is giving out, with his usual propensity for lying, that __ is not elected. The heaven-born mission of journalism is to disseminate truth; to eradicate error; to educate, refine, and elevate the tone of public morals and manners, and make all men more gentle, more virtuous, more charitable, and in all ways better, and holier, and happier; and yet this blackhearted scoundrel degrades his great office persistently to the dissemination of falsehood, calumny, vituperation, and vulgarity.

    "__ wants a --it wants a jail and a poorhouse more. The idea of a pavement in a __ composed of gin-mills, a shop, and that mustard-plaster of a newspaper, the __! The crawling insect, __, who edits the _____, is braying about his business with his customary imbecility, and imagining that he is talking sense."

    --Mark Twain, "The Spirit of ___ Journalism", exact date not known ... but does the date even matter?


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