NBC News’ apparent collaboration with two foreign left-wing organizations to bankrupt (and therefore silence) a rival news organization by acting to cut off its ad revenue stream is disgustingly unethical, immoral, and counter to the core principles of the First Amendment.
An NBC News reporter based in London, Adele-Momoko Fraser, seems to have collaborated with two obscure British activist groups to “report” The Federalist for alleged violations of its terms of service in hopes that Google Ads would demonitize the conservative news and opinion site and competitor. (The term “competitor” is used loosely, since the number of people who watch the network’s cable news offerings can be counted on one hand.)
Why would NBC want The Federalist silenced? The short answer is because its writers express ideas NBC News’ talking heads find abhorrent, and they’re effective in exposing “fake news” and media bias. In addition, The Federalist’s reporters have been at the forefront of exposing the Russia collusion story, which has dominated MSNBC’s content since 2016, as a hoax. And, like many conservative news/opinion outlets, they’ve pointed out the mainstream media’s false reporting on the protests/riots following George Floyd’s death.
That coverage, including a June 3 piece by the site’s political editor, John Daniel Davidson, titled “The Media Are Lying To You About Everything, Including The Riots,” seems to be the impetus behind Fraser’s report to Google. Fraser, a producer for NBC’s “Verification Center,” based in London, sent Google “research” conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) claiming that both The Federalist and Zerohedge “publish[ed] unsubstantiated claims about the Black Lives Matter protests.”
As a result of that complaint Google, which controls approximately 70 percent of digital ad spending, on Tuesday threatened to demonitize The Federalist. Zerohedge was booted from the Google Ads platform, but it’s unclear whether that was as a result of the report Fraser submitted or not.
Fraser broke the story Tuesday, and her tweet raised many an eyebrow. Her since-deleted original tweet contained a link to her story and read:
NEW – from @NBCVC. Thanks to @SFFakeNews and @CCDHate for their hard work and collaboration! #BlackLivesMatter
Fraser’s replacement tweet omitted the Black Lives Matter hashtag but, stunningly, still thanked SFFN and CCDH for their “collaboration” on the story.
A tweet from CCDH founder Imran Ahmed, though, claimed collaboration between NBC Verification Center and his organizations:
Delighted that @SFFakeNews, working with @NBC_VC and @AMFraserNBC, has successfully persuaded @Google to stop ads appearing on Zero Hedge and The Federalist. @CCDHate’s biggest ever win. https://t.co/ur0E50DwWF
— Imran Ahmed (@Imi_Ahmed) June 16, 2020
In the story Fraser confirmed that the NBC News Verification Unit sent the report to Google directly (rather than SFFN or CCDH) and claimed that The Federalist had already been demonitized, citing an email from a Google spokesman received Monday.
Google has banned two far-right websites from its advertising platform after research revealed the tech giant was profiting from articles pushing unsubstantiated claims about the Black Lives Matter protests.
A Google spokesperson said in an email on Monday that it demonetized the websites after determining they violated its policies on content related to race.
“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 spokesperson wrote. “When a page or site violates our policies, we take action. In this case, we’ve removed both sites’ ability to monetize with Google.”
While Fraser didn’t link to or provide screenshots of the purportedly offensive material, she seemed to reference the June 3 article:
The Federalist published an article claiming the media had been lying about looting and violence during the protests, which were both included in the research sent to Google.
SFFN, though, was more transparent, characterizing The Federalist as “a racist Fake News site pushing misinformation about #BlackLivesMatter” and including a screenshot of the June 3 article.
2/ …and thanks to our investigation with @NBCVerified, @GoogleAds also took action to defund @FDRLST, a racist Fake News site pushing misinformation about #BlackLivesMatter @AMFraserNBC pic.twitter.com/IKzaD5q2ev
— Stop Funding Fake News (@SFFakeNews) June 16, 2020
Reading between the lines of Fraser’s narrative, it’s clear that the tactic was to shame Google for creating revenue for sites she and CDDH deem “far-right”:
As the Black Lives Matter protests unfolded over recent weeks, hundreds of corporations eagerly lent their support. This includes Google, which said it has donated “$12 million in funding to organizations working to address racial inequities.”
There are other similar websites that continue to generate revenue through Google, causing continued concern for civil rights advocates. In its report, the Center for Countering Digital Hate pointed to examples of articles on other far-right websites such that carried advertisements by well-known brands while disseminating false narratives about the protest movement.
Predictably, the news had a chilling effect on conservative news/opinion organizations. If content written by The Federalist questioning or criticizing legacy media could be considered racist and lead to demonitization, every conservative site was now facing an existential threat.
A short time later Google released a statement saying that The Federalist had not been demonitized as yet but had been issued a warning over content in its comments section and had three days to take corrective action. Fraser then updated her article, claiming that Google “backtracked” after the story was published and “clarified” what was happening. If Fraser had an email from a Google spokesperson saying the demonitization had already occurred, how could Google’s contradictory statement possibly be considered “clarification”?
Then, The Federalist’s Sean Davis appeared on Tucker Carlson. In addition to slamming the collaboration between NBC News and CCDN he provided viewers with some shocking background, saying:
“We never got any formal notice from Google. We never got any notice from their ad team. We learned about this from NBC News, from the reporter, Ms. Fraser, who emailed a general info account at The Federalist – she didn’t email me or my partners or my founders – saying hey, we heard that Google demonitized you. What do you think about that?
“And it’s at that point where we started reaching out to connections that we had at Google and found out that it turns out, yeah, something was going on there….”
Why (and how) did Fraser know this was going to happen before The Federalist did? It looks like Fraser wasn’t simply reporting on a story, but was an integral part of an operation to silence journalists and silence political speech in the United States (during an election year) spearheaded by “a not-for-profit NGO headquartered in London, England that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation” using numerous tactics including “demonetising and reducing the reach of websites that masquerade as real news but in fact contain conspiracy theories, misinformation and propaganda, intermingled with shoddy journalism.”
Oh, the irony.
Feeling the heat, Fraser tweeted additional “clarification” of what happened:
— Adele-Momoko Fraser (@AMFraserNBC) June 17, 2020
2/ Additionally – after the publication of this story, Google backtracked, clarifying that The Federalist had been warned about policy violations but still had time to address them. It now has three days to remove the violations before a ban goes into effect. //
— Adele-Momoko Fraser (@AMFraserNBC) June 17, 2020
But wait, there’s more. According to SFFN, Fraser wasn’t the only Brit sending their “research” to Google. Kevin Brennan, a British Member of Parliament, also sent the material to Google.
— Stop Funding Fake News (@SFFakeNews) June 16, 2020
For the people in the back, that means that, if true, NBC News was conspiring with a member of a foreign government to shut down political speech during an election year.
Several websites have called attention to Fraser’s social media posts detailing her left-wing activism and hatred of President Trump. Her personal political views are not the problem in this instance, though. Everyone in the media has a political opinion, whether they admit it or not.
The problem with NBC News and Fraser’s coverage of this story isn’t that they (very poorly) covered the story. The problems are that, according to the information available, they:
- Collaborated with a foreign activist group and possibly a member of a foreign government to bankrupt and silence protected journalistic and political speech
- Sought to silence a competitor who wrote unflattering things about their past and current coverage of political events
- Intentionally interfered with a valid business contract between Google and The Federalist with the aim of financially harming The Federalist (which they could possibly be sued for)
- Gave credibility to a political operation by covering it from a purportedly unbiased, journalistic perspective
- Possibly published a fake quote from a Google spokesperson (at this point no one has seen the email Fraser claims to have received Monday night)
- Used journalistic cover to assist a foreign political group in silencing political speech
At this time The Federalist has not been kicked off of the Google Ads platform because they disabled their comments section, a move Davis characterized as temporary. According to Google, the case is closed, but this issue is far from over. As Davis says, Congress needs to investigate this potential collusion with “foreign disinformation outlets.”
Congress needs to investigate whether corrupt legacy media outlets like NBC News are actively colluding with foreign disinformation outfits to interfere in our 2020 elections by trying to ban American media outlets like @FDRLST from exercising their 1A rights to publish news.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) June 17, 2020
In addition, Congress and the American people need to make it abundantly clear that it is unacceptable for media outlets and their “journalists” to work as activists and seek to deprive people and organizations of their First Amendment rights. If what is alleged indeed occurred, NBC News and Fraser need to feel such severe consequences that no media outlet or starry-eyed progressive “journalist” would dare think of making such an attempt ever again.
Watch Davis’ full appearance on Tucker Carlson here: