Mark Bergen, Bloomberg:
AppNexus Inc., a major advertising technology provider, has barred Breitbart News from using its ad-serving tools because the conservative online publisher violated its hate speech rules.
AppNexus scrutinized Breitbart’s website after U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump tapped Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart, to be White House chief strategist last week. The digital ad firm decided the publication had breached a policy against content that incites violence, said AppNexus spokesman Joshua Zeitz.
“We did a human audit of Breitbart and determined there were enough articles and headlines that cross that line, using either coded or overt language,” he said.
Every major programmatic advertising network has a policy of the types of websites that are allowed to implement their ads and, conversely, the types that are not. Google, for example, prohibits their ad network on websites that “contain harassing or bullying content” or “[incite] hatred or promotes violence against individuals or groups”. AppNexus (PDF) prohibits their ads on “content that depicts, contains, or provides access to hate speech” and “content that AppNexus reasonably deems to be (a) morally reprehensible or patently offensive, and (b) without redeeming social value.”
The trouble is that so many websites are dependent upon these ads that it’s impossible for programmatic advertisers to verify compliance with every website placement. While providers attempt to monitor websites, they also depend on users reporting ads on bad sites.
I imagine that ad providers would find it particularly sensitive to restrict their advertising from appearing on websites that are, ostensibly, news publications. But — and this is not a political argument — Breitbart is not a news organization. Much like, for example, Natural News, it is a lightly-edited collection of conspiracy theories and out-of-context excerpts with a professional sheen. In the fight against fake news, sites that traffic in providing knowingly false or misleading information to a large audience should have their revenue squeezed. Their popularity is insulting to the difficult financial circumstances that have befallen major reputable news organizations.