Google Takes Action Against Conservative Websites Over Comment Sections

Two sites were flagged for having comment sections that broke hate speech policies

google, zero hedge and the federalist logos
Google took action against two conservative sites over rule violations. Zero Hedge, The Federalist
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Google confirmed today that it took issue with two conservative websites over comments sections that violated the company’s policies on “dangerous and derogatory” content.

Zero Hedge will no longer be able to use Google’s ad platform to monetize its content as of last week, and The Federalist was warned about their comments section and was given three days to comply with Google’s rules before the company ceased access to its ad platform.

Google said The Federalist has since removed comments from its website after the company “worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section.” Google did not immediately say whether The Federalist was still in jeopardy of losing the platform.

Google’s policies prohibit ads from running on websites that “display shocking content or promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination or violence.”

A new spotlight has been placed on Silicon Valley companies, including Facebook and Twitter, which have been under fire for recent decisions on how to moderate misleading and incendiary content on their platforms. The platforms’ new rulings on these messages have left critics on both sides debating the biases platforms are showing in these decisions, calling into question those companies’ responsibilities on cleaning up content.

The conservative websites were flagged by Google because of their comment sections, not for any particular piece of content generated by either website. The Federalist did not immediately return a request for comment, and a spokesperson for Zero Hedge could not be immediately reached.

A Google spokesperson pointed to a set of policies that prohibit messages that “harass, intimidate or incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.”

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reported revenues of $41.2 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Google controlled 37% of the online advertising market last year.

The decision was first reported by NBC News, which initially mischaracterized what parts of the websites’ content Google took issue with. The news organization initially reported that the sites’ indiscretions had to do with individual articles about protests rather than the comments section.

NBC updated its original article after Adweek contacted a spokesperson for comment.

“To be clear, The Federalist is not currently demonetized,” a Google spokesperson confirmed in an email Tuesday. “We do have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on, which includes comments on the site. This is a longstanding policy.”

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.