Google claims that Zero Hedge violated its policy against monetizing content that “promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race.” In addition, the Mountain View-based company has also threatened The Federalist with demonetization for similar reasons.
The fact that both Zero Hedge and The Federalist are conservative-leaning sites has raised eyebrows, especially as Left-wing sites remain monetized on Google Ads.
Complicating the matter is that Google bases its demonetization of sites from reports from other organizations, including some Left-leaning ones.
Zero Hedge's demonetization came after Google was notified of research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. According to the British nonprofit, which claims to combat online hate and misinformation, Zero Hedge was one of 10 U.S.-based websites that published what they claim to be racist articles about the riots and projected that the sites would make millions of dollars through Google Ads.
But some conservative sites are claiming that these organizations are simply looking to silence any sites that fail to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
In a new report, Big League Politics pointed to another left-wing organization called Stop Funding Fake News as “agitating to demonetize” any conservative site that speaks out on the matter.
According to the report a number of conservative-leaning sites were on the group's list of sites that they wanted to be demonetized on Google. Aside from Big League Politics and the already demonetized Zero Hedge, the list includes Moonbattery, American Greatness, American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, The Washington Standard, Gateway Pundit, Breitbart, and The Federalist.
A message on Stop Funding Fake News' site shows that it unabashedly supports the BLM movement.
“In the wake of George Floyd's death, a global #BlackLivesMatter movement has erupted, demanding justice for black people across the world and calling for an end to systemic racism. Stop Funding Fake News stands in solidarity with this movement, but this moment calls for more than words: it calls for action,” it states.
Meanwhile, Google says that it was simply following its own guidelines when it pursued its actions.
“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,” wrote a spokesperson for Google. “When a page or site violates our policies, we take action.”
Google's actions come as more questions are being raised in regards to the power that big tech has on controlling the online narrative. Social media giants Twitter and Facebook have already been slammed for their censoring of certain posts while pushing their own viewpoints.
The actions of both social media sites have even gotten the attention of may in government. Recently Attorney General William Barr stated that these platforms were no longer the open forums that they claimed to be, acting more like publishers. (Related: Have Google, Facebook bought off DC conservative think tanks?)
Barr stated that the government would look into modifying Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which currently provides these companies with statutory liability protections, even if they engage in censorship.
How such a change would affect Google's ability to demonetize sites, however, is unclear. Google Ads isn't a platform in the same way Twitter or Facebook are; Google doesn't actually host the content nor does it take any of the articles or sites down -- it just pulls its advertisements from them.