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Media

NBC News’ Attempt to Demonetize the Federalist Is Illiberal Insanity

NBC News reported today that two sites, ZeroHedge and the Federalist, had been banned from generating revenue through widely used Google Ads. A Google spokesperson initially told NBC News that it “took action after determining the websites violated its policies on content related to race.”

I don’t know much about ZeroHedge, but the contention that the Federalist (where I worked as a senior editor from 2013 to 2019) is “far-right,” as reporter Adele-Momoko Fraser claims twice in her piece, is utter nonsense. The Federalist publishes a wide variety of opinions. Some pieces are more provocative than others. Some are very provocative. So what? NBC News is trying to make the site sound like the Daily Stormer, when in fact it has contributions from well-known mainstream libertarians, social conservatives, and moderate Republicans. All of the content falls well within normal parameters of contemporary political discourse — which is exactly what outlets such as NBC News are trying to shut down.

Once upon a time, news outlets fought to protect the ideals of free expression. Now, they assign activists masquerading as journalists, and boost Orwellian-sounding outfits (what is the “NBC News Verification Unit”?), to try to smear and censor those who criticize them.

Neither NBC News nor Google offered a single example backing up their contention that the Federalist has peddled racist sentiments about Black Lives Matter. As far as I can ascertain, their problem is with one piece:

The Federalist published an article claiming the media had been lying about looting and violence during the protests, which were both included in the report sent to Google.

There is plenty of justification for the offending argument. Major networks have consistently downplayed the rioting and looting that have taken place over the past few weeks because such activity undermines the notion that Black Lives Matter is wholly peaceful. You may disagree with the characterization, but it’s certainly not bigoted. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be shielded from criticism. No one should be.

Here, it would appear, is the piece in question, written by John Daniel Davidson. Not one word of it is racist.

As it turns out, a Google spokesperson told Ad Week that NBC News got the story wrong, and that Google only notified the Federalist they “could” be demonetized, and that it was the site’s comments section that was in violation. Then Google told Ad Week that the site would be demonetized, but that the Federalist could rectify the situation. Both comments contradict the initial statement made by the Google spokesperson, not to mention the entire NBC story.

Would Google really demonetize sites over their comment sections? Has such a standard ever been used for a political website?

Whatever the case, it’s clear now that NBC News was trying to have the Federalist demonetized. Unequipped to offer a compelling case on her own, Adele-Momoko Fraser appealed to authority by pointing to the alleged expertise of a previously unknown British group calling itself the “Center for Countering Digital Hate.” A quick scan of the site will illustrate that the group relies on unsubstantiated Internet trolling as a basis for its “reports.” It looks as if the site is manned by one person, named Imran Ahmed, who seems to believe that Microsoft and Ford are also part of the white-supremacist conspiracy. It’s embarrassing that NBC News would rely on information given by such a transparently ideological and amateurish organization to censor anyone.

Where are all the other journalists banding together to defend the ideals of free expression and the First Amendment? So far, nowhere. The Left’s illiberal impulse to quash opinions it dislikes is getting increasingly brazen — and dangerous. And it won’t stop here.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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