Leaked emails: After Trump victory, Google employees sought to ban Breitbart from ad revenue
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Emails leaked to Breitbart News show that senior Google employees sought to mortally wound the popular news site beginning shortly after Donald Trump won the White House in 2016.
The emails reveal that Google employees explored ways to cut off Breitbart’s ability to earn revenue by banning the website from “Google AdSense,” a program which funnels audience-targeted ads – and marketing dollars – to content publishers.
In a lengthy email thread, officials of the search engine giant, reeling from Hillary Clinton’s loss, reveal they were on a quest to uncover examples of “fake news” and “hate speech” they assumed were being propagated in Breitbart News stories.
Google employees believed that if they could find a way to legitimately accuse Breitbart of “fake news” or “hate speech,” they would be justified in choking off ad revenue. By demonetizing the website, the conservative news source would soon die.
Combing through the leaked emails
A couple weeks after Trump’s inauguration, the quest to suffocate Breitbart was initiated in a group email from Google employee David Richter, who asked, “Anyone want to hold their nose and look through Breitbart.com for hate speach [sic]?”
Jeff Lakusta, technical support chief for Google’s ad-buying software, chimed in: “This is likely going to be tough to prove that Breitbart is Hate Speech. If we want to tackle it, we’ll need a very thorough approach, which will likely take several people across the group.” Lakusta then offered a spreadsheet so that members of the group could tally examples of what they determined to be “hate speech.”
“We can work together to tackle the site and document cases of Hate Speech,” continued Lakusta. “Once the group feels this is ready, submitting this type of document to AdSense is much more likely to result in meaningful change, given Google’s natural (& understandable) reticence to take action against this site.”
Emily Garber, “product counsel” for AdSense policies, joined the discussion offering to address the group’s questions: “I promise you that Breitbart is very much on our radar and our Trust and Safety team is evaluating the site to determine its policy compliance.”
“I know I'm speaking to the choir here,” prefaced Ryan Garza, who works with Google’s large advertising clients. “There is obviously a moral argument to be made as well as a business case.”
Joining the conversation, Google director of monetization Jim Gray assured the group that his team had been reviewing the Breitbart website since the “fake news” discussion kicked off shortly after Trump’s victory over Clinton.
The Google group found disappointing results
After the group spent ten days of sifting through Breitbart, David Motsonashvili wrote, “I've noticed that almost all the stuff there is based on comments, while, as a tactic for getting google to dump Breitbart this may be somewhat successful, I think it’s relevant to note that it may have a seriously detrimental side effect.”
Motsonashvili was alluding to the fact that attacking Breitbart based on reader comments, not published content, would likely incur a backlash against Google.
“Right now over 90% of the things in the spreadsheet are from the comment section,” he added.
Although their efforts have failed so far, the presence of a large contingent of Google senior staff plotting to shut down conservative websites by flexing the tech giant’s considerable control of internet earnings and traffic troubles conservatives, who also say they are noticing increasing censorship from social media companies.
By steering search results and corking ad revenue, Google has the wherewithal to severely limit the presence of conservatives on the internet.
Congress grills Google CEO over discrimination against conservatives
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was subjected to a wide range of questions Tuesday as he testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. In particular, House members grilled Pichai about Google search results being biased against conservatives and conservative points of view.
“This has been a reoccurring narrative over the past year, as Republican lawmakers – and even President Donald Trump – have accused Google and other tech platforms of suppressing conservative voices,” reported CNBC in its coverage of the hearing. “Pichai echoed Google’s previous denials, and repeatedly responded that Google’s search algorithms did not favor any particular ideology, but instead surfaced the most relevant results, which could be affected by the time of a users’ search, as well as their geography.”
“I strongly support an open, decentralized internet that is free of powerful gatekeepers with the ability to discriminate against rivals, threaten innovation, or harm consumers," declared Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who pressed the Google CEO to pledge to end the tech behemoth’s discriminatory practices.
Pichai denied that Google discriminates via search results.
Despite Pichai’s assertions, Breitbart’s own investigation revealed earlier this year that “Google’s ad department was directing the company’s ad clients to the page of Sleeping Giants, a far-left organization that attempts to blacklist conservative media organizations – including Breitbart News – by spreading slander to their advertisers.”
In the same report, Breitbart showed that senior Google officials “had authored an open letter to Google’s management formally requesting that Breitbart be demonetized. It now appears that the letter was the tail-end of a long process within Google to smear Breitbart as a place for ‘fake news’ and ‘hate speech,’ that began mere months after the 2016 election.”