A Recap Of NBC’s Failed Attempt To Deplatform The Federalist On Google

A Recap Of NBC’s Failed Attempt To Deplatform The Federalist On Google

NBC News' failed attempt to de-platform The Federalist with Google exposed the power of big tech and drew Washington scrutiny.
Tristan Justice
By

NBC News dropped a bombshell report last week that the network’s “Verification Unit” had successfully colluded with a foreign left-wing think tank convincing Google to ban The Federalist from profiting off ads generated by the company’s search engine. NBC reported that Google took action based on its work with the United Kingdom’s “Center for Countering Digital Hate” that alleged Federalist reporting which exposed legacy media’s deceptive coverage of recent civil unrest violated company guidelines.

Hours after NBC’s initial dispatch, however, Google released a statement contradicting NBC’s claims and claiming that the tech giant had threatened sanctions on The Federalist not for its journalism but for content in its comment sections, which the website has temporarily disabled but has promised will be back.

Updated June 30, 2020.

Federalist Staff Push Back On Corporate Censorship, Highlight Double-Standard

While Google flexed the all-mighty power of big tech to regulate free speech in the 21st-century public square, Federalist staff exposed the Silicon Valley empire’s double standards with an article in the Wall Street Journal and multiple appearances on Fox News.

Washington Takes Notice

The day after Google’s threats of censorship, top Washington lawmakers and the Department of Justice (DOJ) ramped up efforts to rein in big tech’s growing influence over public speech, specifically targeting protections granted under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provide immunity to online platforms for third-party content.

Even Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins, a longtime advocate for Section 230, joined the bipartisan beltway chorus to demand changes to it, declaring his support for newly proposed regulations from the Justice Department to emerge in light of the latest censorship battle.

Attorney General William Barr unveiled proposed rules on Wednesday that would curb government protections for companies whose censorship was found inconsistent under vague terms of service.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who is big tech’s leading critic in Washington, also penned a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai condemning the California company’s threats to selectively censor The Federalist.

“Your company is well aware of the central role played by advertising in the modern online ecosystem, and has spent years amassing an enormous trove of internet users’ data through the Google ads platform,” Hawley wrote. “That, in turn, has granted your company vast powers to shape what users see, believe, and buy… Now your company is attempting to further manipulate the information marketplace by transforming advertising platform access into a cudgel wielded against dissenting voices.”

Hawley was joined by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who blasted Google on the same day over its attack on The Federalist and demanded information related to its decision working with NBC News and a foreign entity to censor the American website.

“The recent actions of Google to ‘demonetize’ a conservative media publisher, The Federalist, raise serious concerns that Google is abusing its monopoly power in an effort to censor political speech with which it disagrees,” Cruz wrote. “This is part of a bigger problem. The culture of free speech in this country is under attack, and Google is helping lead the charge.”

Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tech Task Force, also joined the fray, along with Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and others.

“Beware the power of Big Tech to cancel conservative voices,” Blackburn wrote on Twitter. “We can’t let Google get away with anticompetitive conduct or bully competitors and consumers into submission.”

Blackburn followed up her statement days later with a letter to the Department of Justice urging the federal law enforcement agency to examine Google’s monopoly power over search in its ongoing antitrust investigation.

Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler also proposed the “Stopping Big Tech Censorship Act” following Google’s attacks taking aim at Section 230 protections requiring companies to clarify their terms of service related to content moderation.

Pundits Come to The Federalist’s Defense

While a majority of those in corporate media silently cheered NBC’s failed attempt to bring down the conservative website, others flocked to The Federalist’s support, understanding what the moment revealed over the fragility of free speech in the information age.

“The media have just beclowned themselves,” said Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro. “It was very clear that the journalistic objectivity that was purported to reign at a lot of these institutions was bullcrap. The mask finally fell for, I think, what is the most clear time.”

Donald Trump Jr. called on the Senate to subpoena Google’s CEO, while countless others came to the support of free speech.

Tristan Justice is a staff writer at The Federalist focusing on the 2020 presidential campaigns. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at [email protected]

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