Free Speech

"NBC Said Google Is Demonetizing The Federalist for Spreading Fake News; Google Says the NBC Report Is Fake News"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From Robby Soave here at Reason:

On Tuesday, NBC claimed that Google had made the decision to demonetize The Federalist after NBC's own News Verification Unit presented the search engine with evidence the conservative website was spreading misinformation related to recent anti-police brutality protests.

But it turned out that the news outlet spreading misinformation was actually NBC. In a statement, Google denied that it had stripped The Federalist of the ability to generate money from ads. "The Federalist was never demonetized," wrote Google Communications. "We worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section."

This directly contradicted the NBC story, which initially suggested that Google had found fault with The Federalist's articles. The actual problem, according to Google, was comments on the articles, not the articles themselves. The Federalist temporarily deleted its comments section, resolving the issue….

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  1. It still was a successful censorship effort by a company (Google) that *is* exercising monopoly control over internet advertising. The Federalist was forced to get rid of it’s comment section.

    The same Google that claims that it isn’t responsible for comments on it’s own youtube.

    1. ” that *is* exercising monopoly control over internet advertising”
      There’s also Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Amazon, Microsoft….

      1. It’s like he hasn’t seen the Reason.com ads either!

      2. I don’t think you understand how antitrust law works, or what a ‘monopoly’ is under US law. Pointing to the existence of a few other alternatives, which collectively hold less than 30% of the market doesn’t make Google not a monopoly . This might help – https://www.justice.gov/atr/monopoly-power-and-market-power-antitrust-law.

        1. The (1987) article you’ve linked (correctly) points out that market share is not a reliable indicator of monopoly power, although trivial market share is sufficient to demonstrate a lack of monopoly power. A firm with 100% market share might not have monopoly power. It concludes that market share should not be the “focus of the analysis” re: monopoly cases. Put differently high market share is a necessary but insufficient condition (in most instances) to prove monopoly power.

          That hasn’t stopped courts, but 70% is on the low end to even meet the minimum threshold. For a more recent discussion, see here: https://www.justice.gov/atr/competition-and-monopoly-single-firm-conduct-under-section-2-sherman-act-chapter-2. I’m not aware of any evidence suggesting Google is exercising monopoly power over the advertising market, even if you narrowed the market to “online advertising”.

          So what’s your theory?

          1. Being in private practice, I tend to discount articles that “[haven’t] stopped courts.” Paying clients aren’t really interested in that.

          2. My current theory is that your reading skills are not up to par. Nothing in the article I linked suggests that “trivial market share is sufficient to demonstrate a lack of monopoly power”. The article indeed says market share is not the only factor to consider, but it simply does not say what you claim above.

            1. “Contrary to Judge Hand’s intimation, there should be no explicit market share requirement in a section two exclusion case, although one may wish to create a ‘safe harbor’ for cases involving trivial market shares.”

              Judge Hand’s intimation was that 90% was enough, 60% probably wasn’t, 33% definitely isn’t. The article I linked has the case law on trivial market share safe harbor. (Most courts currently treat non-trivial market share as necessary but not sufficient.)

    2. Simple question, Ed.

      What if a lot of companies that buy ads through Google don’t want them appearing on sites, or maybe just pages, that contain “dangerous or derogatory content, which includes comments on sites,” and so Google declines to place ads there, and decides to “offer guidance and best practices to publishers on how to comply?”

      How is that not just the market at work. An advertiser doesn’t want to be associated with some types content, and Google obliges.

      What is the great incentive for them, or Facebook, to simply discriminate against conservative sites?

      1. I agree, as long as they apply the same standards to everybody. But if they say that a site can’t contain racist content, is criticizing BLM racist? Is praising The Bell Curve by Charles Murray racist?

  2. The comments section of the Federalist has indeed become rather ugly in recent years, Within an hours or two of any new article, there are frequently 100 comments, flames and counter-flames. For all the qualify writers and articles they carry, the comments section had become vile.
    Not that NBC or Google should be in the business of requiring it — certainly not. But I can’t say I’m surprised it drew complaints.

    1. The issue here is, if one wanted to demonetize the Federalist (or another website), all one would need to do is make several anonymous racist comments, then “report” them.

      One doesn’t find Google shutting down liberal websites, due to this attitude. Now, companies are free to contract if/how/when they want.

      Except, when monopolies are involved. If the companies use their monopolistic power in a different field, this is extremely problematic. Based on this behavior, it may be time to break up the monopoly tech companies.

      1. Once you’ve broken apart what someone else has built, who will pick up the pieces?

        1. The Baby Bells seem to have done relatively well.

          1. I could see breaking up Facebook, Twitter, etc by language, but what good does that do?

            Platforms are natural monopolies. One would quickly kill off the others.

      2. One doesn’t find Google shutting down liberal websites, due to this attitude.

        This is not true. I linked to you a story earlier showing this was not true.

        1. Its the Twitter approach. They find a few token libs to strike down in front of the cameras so they can continue the systematic campaign against conservatives. To the point where most major rightwingers outside the big outfits like Fox has been banned or shadowbanned in some way. While the Leftwingers largely roam free.

          1. Per Amos, everything proves the conspiracy. If they didn’t shut down liberal sites it proves it, and if they did it was just a diversion.

            1. Well, I’d say the vast majority of stories being conservative shutdowns/or restrictions when lefties lose their mind even over a single cake shop and rightwingers being POed while people like you are here being dismissive is a pretty solid sign what I’ve said is on the right track.

              1. There are so many fun aspects to this. The news is not fake so long as the majority of stories show discrimination against Amos’s friends. Those stories are both factually reliable and illustrative. Attacks on conservatives are part of a systemic campaign (by Twitter?). But racial conflict is invented and there is no systemic racism.

                It’s like watching Tom Hanks in SNL’s black jeopardy skit. Just change the names and Amos sounds like every Twitter communist.

    2. The comments section of the Federalist has indeed become rather ugly in recent years,

      They could straight up reprint Mein Kampf in the comments and it wouldn’t be as ugly as the articles section of the Federalist.

    3. Sooooooooo…….. just like reason? Except on Reason it is only 2 guys with 11 sock puppets.

  3. “The actual problem, according to Google, was comments on the articles, not the articles themselves.”

    We’re doomed.

    1. The comments are always the best part. That’s why all the cowardly sites deleted them.

  4. The fun part was Google’s response, specifically calling The Federalist a “publisher”.

  5. Dems want to break up Google, you would think they want to keep the GOP friendly. Guess not.

  6. It’s a dumb policy badly implemented, but neither partisan nor illegal.

  7. Well, the question is: When will Reason be demonetized?

    The comments can get brutal. If unmoderated comments gets a website demonetized, it is only a matter of time before we see more actions like this and Reason will be fair game.

    1. The comments at The Volokh Conspiracy are moderated.

  8. When the pendulum swings it is going to be hilarious when liberals cry foul about this stuff. And you know who is going to care on the right? Absolutely no one.

  9. Nothing about Trump and Barr attempting to muzzle Bolton for transparently partisan purposes, but a republication of something that already appeared at the Reason website about a sketchy claim by The Federalist that liberals were mean to it.

    The devotion to freedom of expression exhibited at The Volokh Conspiracy is no better than — and precisely as — I expected. Is it time for another expose on how liberals abuse the First Amendment — maybe something about a liberal professor at Amherst or Ohio State silenced a student who repeated used racial slurs in a computer science class?

  10. Just use the Dissenter browser and you can continue to comment there. Or on any site.

    1. Wanna bet that the social media platforms aren’t working on a way to identify computers that have Brave installed? Maybe in conjunction with an anti-viral software manufacturer?

  11. Google says one thing, NBC says another. What would be really stupid is to believe a constant liar just because he happens to disagree with another constant liar. Most likely, the actual truth is something different, discreditable to both of them.

    1. For context, which if any of the following do you also consider constant liars?
      1. The Federalist
      2. Fox News
      3. OANN
      4. Alex Jones
      5. Donald Trump

      1. I’m not familiar with the Federalist, Alex Jones or OANN. (I tend to confine myself to sources pitched to those with graduate degrees.) Fox and Trump are constant liars, along with most mainstream media and most politicians.

  12. Here is what George Washington said in response to an anonymous petition that called for mutiny, rebellion and military coup against Congress and against Washington himself as Commander in Chief.

    “For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”

  13. In sworn testimony, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress last month that his company does not “manually intervene” on any particular search result. Yet an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News reveals Google regularly intervenes in search results on its YouTube video platform – including a recent intervention that pushed pro-life videos out of the top ten search results for “abortion.”

    The term “abortion” was added to a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” which contains a list of search terms that the company considers sensitive. According to the leak, these include some of these search terms related to: abortion, abortions, the Irish abortion referendum, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and anti-gun activist David Hogg.

    The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source inside the company who wishes to remain anonymous. A partial list of blacklisted terms was also leaked to Breitbart by another Google source.

    In the leaked discussion thread, a Google site reliability engineer hinted at the existence of more search blacklists, according to the source.

    “We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate,” said the employee. “Hopefully this isn’t surprising or particularly controversial.”

    Others were more concerned about the presence of the blacklist. According to the source, the software engineer who started the discussion called the manipulation of search results related to abortion a “smoking gun.”

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