Tag: Advertising

Forget It Jake, It’s Facebook

Want to sell ads to fans of Joseph Mengele?

We now know that Facebook had algorithms to identify Nazis, and sold them to advertisers, because, Nazis, Schmazis, there is money to be made:

Facebook makes money by charging advertisers to reach just the right audience for their message — even when that audience is made up of people interested in the perpetrators of the Holocaust or explicitly neo-Nazi music.

Despite promises of greater oversight following past advertising scandals, a Times review shows that Facebook has continued to allow advertisers to target hundreds of thousands of users the social media firm believes are curious about topics such as “Joseph Goebbels,” “Josef Mengele,” “Heinrich Himmler,” the neo-nazi punk band Skrewdriver and Benito Mussolini’s long-defunct National Fascist Party.

Experts say that this practice runs counter to the company’s stated principles and can help fuel radicalization online.


The Times decided to test the effectiveness of the company’s efforts by seeing if Facebook would allow the sale of ads directed to certain segments of users.

Facebook allowed The Times to target ads to users Facebook has determined are interested in Goebbels, the Third Reich’s chief propagandist, Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust and leader of the SS, and Mengele, the infamous concentration camp doctor who performed human experiments on prisoners. Each category included hundreds of thousands of users.

The company also approved an ad targeted to fans of Skrewdriver, a notorious white supremacist punk band — and automatically suggested a series of topics related to European far-right movements to bolster the ad’s reach.

Collectively, the ads were seen by 4,153 users in 24 hours, with The Times paying only $25 to fuel the push.

Facebook, and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, has amoral lies as a central part of its business ever since he was a student at Harvard.

The idea that anyone should be surprised by this is laughable.

It’s their basic DNA.

Speaking of Chicken Sh%$s

Amid record profits, GM is shuttering Canadian plants, and moving production to Mexico, and the Canadian auto union Unifor has run a Super Bowl ad condemning the move.

GM has responded by threatening to sue the labor union:

The Canadian trade union Unifor is pissed that GM is shutting down the Oshawa Assembly Plant, which has a long and rich history spanning over 100 years. GM says on its website that the facility—which now builds the Cadillac XTS, Chevy Impala, Chevy Silverado, and GMC Sierra—has been open since 1953, but that before that, it built McLaughlin Buicks and Chevrolets prior to The Bowtie merging with GM in 1918.

Despite all of that history, in 2018, GM announced plans to close the historic manufacturing site. Shortly thereafter, workers walked out in protest, and the president of Unifor, the trade union representing the plant workers, voiced his displeasure, saying “They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight,” per CTV News.
But last night, during the Super Bowl, the battle between Unifor and GM got heated, with the former unleashing this commercial in Canada:

The commercial is scathing, mentioning how Canada helped GM with the bailout last decade, and criticizing the company’s expansion into Mexico. “GM, you may have forgotten our generosity,” the commercial concludes, “but we’ll never forget your greed. If you want to sell here, build here.”

According to the Detroit News, GM wasn’t thrilled, and even threatened legal action:

Who knew that the automobile manufacturer was such a bunch of beautiful cinnamon rolls who are too good for this world?

In related news, Unifor is also calling for a boycott of Mexican made vehicles.

If the VIN starts with the number “3”, it’s from Mexico.

So Not a Surprise………

Facebook sells advertisers on its access to real people — 2.32 billion of them, a network that exceeds the populations of North America, South America and Africa combined.

But do that many people really use Facebook?

The answer lies partly in how many of the accounts are fake. The Silicon Valley company defines fake accounts as profiles that are either designed to break its rules, for example by spammers or scammers impersonating others, or that are misclassified, such as someone setting up a Facebook profile instead of a Facebook page for a business.

Yet the number of Facebook accounts that fit those descriptions is less clear. While the company discloses its estimates of fake accounts, its figures have fluctuated and are confusing. Even Facebook admits its understanding of the numbers is tenuous.

“Duplicate and false accounts are very difficult to measure at our scale,” it said in a securities filing in October, and the actual numbers “may vary significantly from our estimates.”


For years, investors, analysts and journalists had only Facebook’s estimates to judge fake accounts. Last year, Facebook introduced a transparency page, which discloses how many fake accounts it has taken down each quarter. Those figures revealed that the scope was far larger than the estimates in securities filings had suggested.

Let’s run through the math on this in more detail. Facebook’s new numbers added up to more than 2.8 billion fake accounts taken down in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, or about 7.7 million a day.

Facebook had previously reported that about 3 percent to 4 percent of its active users were fake. According to the new figures, the accounts taken down each quarter were equivalent to 25 percent to 35 percent of its active users (though those accounts were not counted in Facebook’s active-user tallies because they had been removed).

I am shocked and stunned by this.

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human beings I’ve ever known in my life.

They would never do anything to violate the trust of their customers, and their users.

Please understand that the above is sarcasm.

And Now Advertisers are Aiding Terrorists

Yes, our friends who want to use cell phone tracking to sell us shoes have been selling their services to anti abortion operatives:

Last year, an enterprising advertising executive based in Boston, Massachusetts, had an idea: Instead of using his sophisticated mobile surveillance techniques to figure out which consumers might be interested in buying shoes, cars, or any of the other products typically advertised online, what if he used the same technology to figure out which women were potentially contemplating abortion, and send them ads on behalf of anti-choice organizations?

The executive—John Flynn, CEO of Copley Advertising—set to work. He put together PowerPoint presentations touting his capabilities, and sent them to groups he thought would be interested in reaching “abortion-minded women,” to use anti-choice parlance.

Before long, he’d been hired by RealOptions, a network of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in Northern California, as well as by the evangelical adoption agency Bethany Christian Services.

Flynn’s endeavors quickly won him attention in the anti-choice world. He was invited to speak at the Family Research Council’s ProLifeCon Digital Action Summit in January this year, and he got a few write-ups in anti-choice press.

In an interview with Live Action News—the website for Live Action, the group run by anti-choice activist Lila Rose that is responsible for bogus attack videos against Planned Parenthood—Flynn gave some details about his strategy. He sends advertisements for his clients to women’s smartphones while they are sitting in Planned Parenthood clinics, using a technology known as “mobile geo-fencing.” He also planned to ping women at methadone clinics and other abortion facilities. His program for Bethany covered five cities: Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; and New York City.

“We are very excited to bring our mobile marketing capabilities to the pro-life community,” Flynn told Live Action News.

This is why the self-described “disrupters” in the tech industry need to be kept under a tight regulatory leash.

If you don’t find this completely terrifying, you have not been paying attention.

F%$# Zuck

Yet again, the rocks are turned over at Facebook, and so now we know that gave advertisers specific access to white supremacists:

Apparently fueled by anti-Semitism and the bogus narrative that outside forces are scheming to exterminate the white race, Robert Bowers murdered 11 Jewish congregants as they gathered inside their Pittsburgh synagogue, federal prosecutors allege. But despite long-running international efforts to debunk the idea of a “white genocide,” Facebook was still selling advertisers the ability to market to those with an interest in that myth just days after the bloodshed.

Earlier this week, The Intercept was able to select “white genocide conspiracy theory” as a pre-defined “detailed targeting” criterion on the social network to promote two articles to an interest group that Facebook pegged at 168,000 users large and defined as “people who have expressed an interest or like pages related to White genocide conspiracy theory.” The paid promotion was approved by Facebook’s advertising wing. After we contacted the company for comment, Facebook promptly deleted the targeting category, apologized, and said it should have never existed in the first place.

Our reporting technique was the same as one used by the investigative news outlet ProPublica to report, just over one year ago, that in addition to soccer dads and Ariana Grande fans, “the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of “why jews ruin the world.”’” The report exposed how little Facebook was doing to vet marketers, who pay the company to leverage personal information and inclinations in order to gain users’ attention — and who provide the foundation for its entire business model. At the time, ProPublica noted that Facebook “said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers.” Rob Leathern, a Facebook product manager, assured the public, “We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

Leathern’s “new guardrails” don’t seem to have prevented Facebook from manually approving our ad buy the same day it was submitted, despite its explicit labeling as “White Supremacy – Test.”

Facebook is really a seriously evil organization, and it has been baked into it from the very beginning.

Break it up into tiny little pieces.

Yeah, This Does Not Make Me Want to Buy GM Car

It turns out that GM has been secretly spying on its customers’ radio listening habits:

On September 12th, GM’s director of global digital transformation Saejin Park gave a presentation to the Association of National Advertisers in which he described how the company had secretly gathered data on the radio-listening habits of 90,000 GM owners in LA and Chicago for three months in 2017, tracking what stations they listened to and for how long, and where they were at the time; this data was covertly exfiltrated from the cars by means of their built-in wifi.

The company says it never sold this data, but the presentation to the advertising execs was clearly designed to elicit bids for it. Toyota has promised not to gather and sell telematics data, but GM seems poised to create a market in data gathered by your car, which can listen to you, follow you, take pictures of you and your surroundings, and even gather data on which passengers are in the car at different times by tracking Bluetooth beacons from mobile devices.

This is unbelievably creepy, and the fact that no one is going to jail over this is even worse.

Time to Break Up Facebook, Part MMMMCLXIV

Facebook and Google’s hegemony in the online ad world has reached its inevitable result, it has been revealed that Facebook has been aggressively defrauding advertisers over the effectiveness of its video ads.

If I had a chance to say anything to Mark Zuckerberg about this, it would be, “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed.

According to a newly public filing in an ongoing lawsuit, a group of advertisers now says that Facebook has been willfully withholding information about how much time its users spend watching paid ads—if more people spend more time watching ads, then those ads can command higher rates.

The case of LLE One LLC et al. v. Facebook, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was filed two years ago and is currently pending in federal court in Oakland, California. In it, the plaintiffs say that, as part of the discovery from their lawsuit, they have learned that Facebook’s “action rises to the level of fraud and may warrant punitive damages.”

As the plaintiffs’ attorneys continued:

In addition to Facebook knowing about the problem far longer than previously acknowledged, Facebook’s records also show that the impact of its miscalculation was much more severe than reported. The average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60-80 percent; they were inflated by some 150-900 percent.

There are no good metrics because there are no independent metrics, and there won’t be, because Facebook so dominates the space that they can, and do, refuse to provide their underlying numbers to independent verification.

The market no longer serves as a corrective, and the alternatives are either aggressive and pervasive regulation, or broken up to its component parts, or (my choice) both.

Bust Them Up into 1000 Pieces

I am referring to Facebook, of course.

They’ve been at again.

Specifically, they have been actively aiding its advertisers in discriminating:

Though Facebook announced a voluntary plan to update its controversial advertising-filter system earlier this year, Washington state announced a firmer plan for the social media company on Tuesday.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a legally binding plan that will force Facebook to “make significant changes to its advertising platform by removing the ability of third-party advertisers to exclude ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and other protected groups from seeing their ads.”

Ferguson also declared the end of his office’s 20-month investigation into Facebook’s advertising practices on Tuesday, which coincided with an Assurance of Discontinuance (PDF) filed in King County Superior Court.


One sample ad for a restaurant, as described by Ferguson’s office, “excluded African-American, Asian-American, and Latinx ethnic affinity groups.” When reached by Ars Technica, the attorney general’s communications director, Brionna Aho, was unable to provide copies of the fake ads and directed Ars to a public records request process. Ferguson’s announcement included a screenshot of the site’s advertising-purchase interface, which included “ethnic affinity” labels.

The announcement pointed to Facebook’s assurances in February 2017 to “improve enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising” and then cited additional ProPublica reporting that showed Facebook had not held up its end of the bargain. As Ferguson’s office writes:


After acknowledging another Facebook filter change in light of that last ProPublica report, Ferguson’s office expressed continued concerns about Facebook’s ability to block discriminatory advertising. Even after those November 2017 changes, Washington state investigators were still able to “exclude people [from seeing advertisements] based on several other protected classes, such as sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and veteran status” and apply these discriminatory filters to ads for “public accommodations and insurance.” (Ferguson’s statement defines “public accommodations” as “all businesses open to the public.”)

Thus, Tuesday’s Assurance of Discontinuance includes two key, legally binding provisions: Facebook can no longer “exclude ethnic groups from advertisements for insurance and public accommodations” or “provide advertisers with tools to discriminate based on race, creed, color, national origin, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, and disability status.”

I would note that this is not limited to Facebook.

There are a whole bunch of people who are offering micro-targeting of advertisements on the internet, and the ability to engage in bigotry in without any human contact.

Let me just say, “Muck Fark Zuckerberg.”

Crap Websites

Because of #GDPR, USA Today decided to run a separate version of their website for EU users, which has all the tracking scripts and ads removed. The site seemed very fast, so I did a performance audit. How fast the internet could be without all the junk! 🙄
5.2MB → 500KB pic.twitter.com/xwSqqsQR3s

— Marcel Freinbichler (@fr3ino) May 26, 2018

It really is remarkable just how crapified and bloated websites have become.

It’s ads and trackers that crapify websites, and I’m sure that in the next few days, USA Today will succeed in coming up with a website just as bloated and slow as the US one.

OK, I Know That It Runs against My Usual Blog Narrative, but It Amuses Me

We are now getting reports that Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host who has been widely condemned, and boycotted, for mocking the Parkland school survivors, is getting online support from an unlikely source,  Russian Twitter bots:

Embattled Fox News host Laura Ingraham has found some unlikely allies: Russian bots.

Russian-linked Twitter accounts have rallied around the conservative talk-show host, who has come under fire for attacking the young survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. According to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks the spread of Russian propaganda on Twitter, the hashtag #IstandwithLaura jumped 2,800 percent in 48 hours this weekend. On Saturday night, it was the top trending hashtag among Russian campaigners.

The website botcheck.me, which tracks 1,500 “political propaganda bots,” found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles tweeted by Russia-linked accounts this weekend. “David Hogg” and “Laura Ingraham” were the top two-word phrases being shared.

Wading into controversy is a key strategy for Russian propaganda bots, which seize on divisive issues online to sow discord in the United States. Since the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, which claimed 17 lives, Russian bots have flooded Twitter with false information about the massacre.


She mocked one of the protesters, David Hogg, for not getting into the the colleges that he applied to, and reaped the proverbial whirlwind.

In response, Hogg took to Twitter to call on the companies that advertise on Ingraham’s Fox News program to pull their ads. Within days, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Hulu, Jos. A. Bank, Jenny Craig, Ruby Tuesday, Miracle-Ear and several other companies pulled their commercials from the show.

Ingraham later apologized, but Hogg isn’t having it. He called Ingraham’s apology an insincere “effort just to save your advertisers.”

And this weekend, Hogg called Ingraham a “bully” on CNN. “It’s disturbing to know that somebody can bully so many people and just get away with it, especially to the level that she did,” he said. “No matter who somebody is, no matter how big or powerful they may seem, a bully is a bully, and it’s important that you stand up to them.”

Ingraham is not on the air this week. She told viewers that she was taking an Easter break, a message confirmed by Fox News to my colleagues at The Washington Post.

It’s an Unscheduled vacation.

She just got her proverbial butt kicked, and now she is slinking off until the furor dies down.

On the bright side, it appears that she has paidtrolls on her side, which, I guess, is a professional courtesy.

It appears that some “Media Critics” are wringing their hands over “censorship” of “journalism”, but Laura Ingraham doesn’t do journalism, and, to quote Atrios, “Most of us don’t have the right to be highly paid to speak, we just, you know, have the right speak. ………  If actual journalists think Laura Ingraham’s right to continued lucrative employment is important for real journalism then…we have a problem.”

Craigslist Ad Of the Day

This guy needs to send his resume to Trevor Noa

Some wag posted a (now pulled) advertisement for a lawyer for Donald Trump:

This afternoon a hilarious classified ad popped up on Washington, DC Craigslist. It appears to now be taken down, but not before I snagged a copy of the text.

“Seeking Lead Attorney For Difficult Client” was the title.

The text read:

“Seeking a lead attorney to represent client involved in an ongoing Federal investigation. Must be familiar with laws and procedures around discovery, executive privilege, international financing of licensed real estate, election law and the Logan Act. Working knowledge of social media, especially Twitter is a plus, as is a better than average knowledge of the adult film industry and a collection of Playboy magazines from 1985-2010. Must look the part – Gregory Peck or Tommy Lee Jones type. Prior appearances on Fox News a huge plus.

No fatties.

Must be prepared to work with a client who is very forceful and opinionated about his defense and is his own best counsel.

Basically your job boils down to keeping him from testifying under oath and hoping the rest comes out in the wash.

Ask about our other openings on our staff and submit your resume to be considered for potential openings in the near future. Perhaps the very near future. Like, hit refresh on your browser now. Now again.”

This is f%$#ing beautiful.

I Am Unclear What This Story Is About

It appears that Unilever, maker of Dove soaps, Axe Body Spray, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Lipton Tea, Ben and Jerry’s, Q-Tips, and (of course) Marmite has put internet advertisers on notice that it is not amused. (see also here and here)

They are unsatisfied with what they are getting from internet advertising, though their statement about this mentions both what their products are paired with online, as well as the fact that the metrics are unreliable.

Though they soft pedal the latter in their statement, I think that this is their real agenda. Otherwise, why mention it all?

That’s my assessment, given that having an ad show up on Logan Paul’s YouTube stream is fleeting and easily corrected, but getting sold silicon snake oil is the sort of thing that gets the acounting types upset:

Unilever has threatened to withdraw its advertising from online platforms such as Facebook and Google if they fail to eradicate content which “create division in society and promote anger and hate”.

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer of the sprawling multinational, whose brands include Dove, Magnum, Persil and Marmite, said that online platforms were sometimes “little better than a swamp”. He told major advertising, media and tech firms gathered at a conference in California: “As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online.”

He added: “We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers – which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.

“It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.” According to the analysts Pivotal, together Google and Facebook account for nearly three-quarters of all digital advertising in the US. In the UK the two have more than 60% of digital advertising and 90% of all new digital spending.

(emphasis mine)

That thing about swamp and transparency?

That is not about “fake news” or “hate speech”, it is about things like Chinese click farms that generate false click throughs and the like, which costs them money, and delivers no customers.

I’m wondering if this whole thing is a dog whistle to Google and Facebook, and that the whole, “Divisions in society,” thing is a smoke screen.

As always, note that this post should in no way be construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

I am a Complete Whore, So Where is My Money

It appears that it is a not uncommon practice for brands to buy coverage on blogs.

Despite my solicitations for such filthy capitalist lucre on the front page of my blog, (right hand column toward the bottom) I have not received any offers:

Please, send me free stuff, and I will consider doing a review.

I am a complete whore, so assume that any review is the result of free stuff, and/or under the table payments.

I will do my level best to reveal such conflicts when I remember to.

I am feeling very neglected right now.

Oh Snap

Ron Wyden is calling for ads to be blocked from all government systems, because of their role in serving up malware:

A US Senator trying to eradicate the Internet scourge known as malvertising is proposing that all federal agencies block ads delivered to worker computers unless advertisers can ensure their networks are free of content that contains malicious code.

In a letter sent today, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce to begin discussions with advertising industry officials to ensure ads displayed on websites can’t be used to infect US government computers. If, after 180 days, Joyce isn’t “completely confident” the industry has curbed the problem, Wyden asked that Joyce direct the US Department of Homeland Security to issue a directive “requiring federal agencies to block the delivery to employees’ computers of all Internet ads containing executable code.”

“Malware is increasingly delivered through code embedded in seemingly innocuous advertisements online,” Wyden wrote. “Individuals do not even need to click on ads to get infected: this malicious software, including ransomware, is delivered without any interaction by the user.”

You have to figure that there is a LOT of people who surf the web during their lunch hour, and if ads are blocked, internet firms will take a major hit.

Some Perspective………

Alleged Russian government Facebook ads were marginally more than one-two thousandth of Clinton and Trump ads during the election.

Obviously, we can talk about how a butterfly flapping its wings in Malawi can create a hurricane, but the effects of this “massive” Russian interference

Russian information troll farm the Internet Research Agency spent just 0.05 percent as much on Facebook ads as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns combined in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, yet still reached a massive audience. While there might have been other Russian disinformation groups, the IRA spent $46,000 on pre-election day Facebook ads compared to $81 million spent by Clinton and Trump together, discluding political action committees who could have spent even more than that on the campaigns’ behalf.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch revealed these figures today during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing with Facebook, Twitter and Google about Russian election interference.

Without counting PACs, the top campaigns spent 1,760X more on election ads than one group of Russian meddlers puts the situation into context. The IRA ad buy was small by comparison. This aligns with Stretch’s main talking point that Russian propaganda content was a tiny fraction of the content and ads seen on Facebook. This revelation could put more focus on organically posted propaganda.

The Democratic Party is focusing on this stuff, and avoiding a meaningful examination of how it failed and why.

I can understand why they are doing this:  Any search for incompetence will lead to a lot of folks working for the Democratic establishment getting VERY well deserved pink slips.

Absent a meaningful autopsy of the 2016 debacle though, the party will continue to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

This is Kind of Tempting

The websites of US telly giant CBS’s Showtime contained JavaScript that secretly commandeered viewers’ web browsers over the weekend to mine cryptocurrency.

The flagship Showtime.com and its instant-access ShowtimeAnytime.com sibling silently pulled in code that caused browsers to blow spare processor time calculating new Monero coins – a privacy-focused alternative to the ever-popular Bitcoin. The hidden software typically consumed as much as 60 per cent of CPU capacity on computers visiting the sites.

The scripts were written by Code [Coin] Hive, a legit outfit that provides JavaScript to website owners: webmasters add the code to their pages so that they can earn slivers of cash from each visitor as an alternative to serving adverts to generate revenue. Over time, money mined by the Code-Hive-hosted scripts adds up and is transferred from Coin Hive to the site’s administrators. One Monero coin, 1 XMR, is worth about $92 right now.

Let me start by saying that I won’t be putting code like this on my site.

I am considering placing an additional button on my tip jar (aka Matthew’s Saroff’s Beer Fund), but it would take the form of another donation button, since the revenue from Google™ Adsense™ is so pathetic.

If I do this, it will be voluntary, another button to click on the page, and I might occasionally nag my reader(s) to click the button.

As always, note that this post should in no way be construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

More of This

A group of people on Twitter known as “Sleeping Giants” has taken to visiting Breitbart, taking screenshots showing the ads and then naming and shaming the advertisers:

Hardly anyone paid attention last November when a strangely named Twitter account, Sleeping Giants, sent its first tweet into the digisphere. “Are you aware that you’re advertising on Breitbart, the alt-right’s biggest champion, today?” read the tweet, aimed at a consumer lending outfit called Social Finance. “Are you supporting them publicly?”

Within 30 minutes, Social Finance replied, tweeting that it would stop running ads on Breitbart.

It was, it turns out, the start of an odd, and oddly effective, social media campaign against Breitbart, the influential conservative news site headed by Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former campaign chairman and ex-chief White House strategist.


Sleeping Giants’ basic approach is to make Breitbart’s advertisers aware that they are, in fact, Breitbart advertisers. Many apparently don’t know this, given that Web ads are often bought through third-party brokers, such as Google and Facebook. The brokers then distribute them to a network of websites according to algorithms that seek a specific target audience (say, young men) or a set number of impressions.


So when an ad appears on Breitbart, Sleeping Giants or one of its 109,000 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook followers flag the advertiser, often accompanied by an image of the sponsors’ ad next to a Breitbart story.

The other day, for example, a Sleeping Giants follower tweeted at Country Inns, informing the hotel chain that it was advertising on “the racist Breitbart site.” Within a day, the company tweeted back: “Thank you for your concern. . . . We have added Breitbart to our blacklist of ads.”

This apparently happens a lot. Sleeping Giants’ database lists nearly 2,900 companies that have declared Breitbart off limits since November — an astonishing figure, though one hard to confirm because some ad buys recur. Nevertheless, it’s not an implausible number. During one 24-hour period, advertisers such as the air-conditioning manufacturer Rheem, transport operator Caltrain, Sutter Health Plus and Rose Medical Center of Denver all publicly acknowledged that they had blacklisted Breitbart in response to a Sleeping Giants tweet.


The group decided to single out Breitbart almost by happenstance. “It really happened as a reaction to Steve Bannon’s rise,” the spokesman says. “We weren’t familiar with Breitbart at the time and were obviously pretty shocked at the articles. . . . To be honest, we weren’t familiar with [other conservative] sites,” so those weren’t even considered, he says.

The group has raised about $1,500 from T-shirt sales and about $7,000 from an online fundraiser, but it otherwise operates with little overhead, he notes. “If I had a nickel for every claim that we’re being funded by [liberal billionaire activist] George Soros, I’d be well off. It’s crazy. There’s not much need for funding. Tweeting is free.”

Two points here:

  • People have been writing to advertisers about where their ads appear since Madison Avenue was a cow path.
  • The fact that the big players in the online advertising market are this cavalier with how they serve up ads.  If you buy ads, be aware of this, or maybe beware of this; your choice.

I think that I might know someone who knows who these guys are.

Spocko Did This a Decade Ago

10 years ago, Spocko, the blogger who runs Spocko’s Brain, started to send records to advertisers showing what hate-talk radio jocks were showing immediately before and after these ads.

He asked a simple question: Do you really want your products associated with this?

It now appears that it has dawned on online activists that they can do the same thing with online news.

It’s even easier, you just have to email a screen shot with their ad and a headline:

One day in late November, an earth and environmental science professor named Nathan Phillips visited Breitbart News for the first time. Mr. Phillips had heard about the hateful headlines on the site — like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” — and wondered what kind of companies would support such messages with their ad dollars. When he clicked on the site, he was shocked to discover ads for universities, including one for the graduate school where he’d received his own degree — Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “That was a punch in the stomach,” he said.

Why would an environmental science program want to be promoted on a site that denies the existence of climate change? Mr. Phillips figured — correctly — that Duke officials did not know where their ads were appearing, so he sent a tweet to Duke about its association with the “sexist racist” site. Eventually, after a flurry of communication with the environment department, he received a satisfying resolution — an assurance that its ads would no longer show up on Breitbart.


In mid-November, a Twitter group called Sleeping Giants became the hub of the new movement. The Giants and their followers have communicated with more than 1,000 companies and nonprofit groups whose ads appeared on Breitbart, and about 400 of those organizations have promised to remove the site from future ad buys.

“We’re focused on Breitbart News right now because they’re the biggest fish,” a founder of Sleeping Giants told me. (He requested anonymity because some members of the group work in the digital-media industry.) Eventually, Sleeping Giants would like to broaden its campaign to take on a menagerie of bad actors, but that would require a much bigger army of Giants, and “it has only been a month since we started doing this,” he told me when I talked to him in December. Then he added, “This has been the longest month of my life.”

Advertisers have been fleeing Rush Limbaugh’s show for precisely the same reason ever since he tried to slut shame Sandra Fluke, and it appears from the silence over the numbers, last time around they were trumpeting the numbers, that he took a significant pay cut.

Everyone has a right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean that they have a right for you to support their sponsors.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht for You C%$# Suckers

It appears that the advertising industry is having a major butthurt over EU requirements that people have a modicum of control over information that is collected about them:

Europe’s new privacy regime is likely to disrupt global digital advertising by preventing companies from using an individual’s data unless they have direct consent from the consumer.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) doesn’t come into force until May 2018, but when it does it will have a profound effect on businesses. The regulation will apply to data about every one of the EU’s 500 million citizens, wherever in the world it is processed or stored.

Stephan Loerke, CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers, said, “I’m surprised more marketers have not woken up to the implications of GDPR. The new regulations will be a significant challenge for the ecosystem and it’s difficult to forecast how technology will adjust.”

Put simply, targeting and tracking companies will need to get user consent somehow. Everything that invisibly follows a user across the internet will, from May 2018, have to pop up and make itself known in order to seek express permission from individuals.


Companies can be fined as much as 4% of global revenues for breaching the regulations. They must also report hacking incidents within 72 hours and ensure parental consent for under-16s.

This is all common sense stuff, and it’s done everywhere else, but the only folks don’t want to do it, because ……… Internet.

Would you like some cheese with that whine?