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Google Ads bans Zero Hedge for racist content, but reverses decision on The Federalist

Google Ads bans Zero Hedge for racist content, but reverses decision on The Federalist


Google claims commenters, not articles, were the culprits

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Google says it’s banning the site Zero Hedge from its Google Ads program for racist content — but it reversed plans to ban a second site, The Federalist, after the site removed comments from its articles. “We have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on and explicitly prohibit derogatory content that promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race from monetizing,” the company said in a statement to NBC News before the reversal. “When a page or site violates our policies, we take action. In this case, we’ve removed both sites’ ability to monetize with Google.”

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.

Google — like other large tech companies — has publicly committed to funding racial justice programs in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. It’s also launched an initiative to “amplify” the voices of black creators on YouTube.

Zero Hedge was recently unbanned by Twitter after being suspended in January for promoting a conspiracy theory about a Chinese scientist; Twitter concluded the decision was “an error.”

Update 5:15PM ET: Added Google’s new statements about The Federalist and its change in policy.