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Report: Globe’s Largest Companies Colluded In ‘Likely’ Antitrust Violation To Censor Conservatives

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Republican investigators said that GARM’s ‘collusive conduct to demonetize disfavored content is alarming.’

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The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) likely violated federal antitrust laws when it used its “tremendous market power” in the advertising world to encourage the demonization of news websites, platforms, and podcasts it deems guilty of wrongthink, a new report published by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday found.

Shortly after Rob Rakowitz co-founded GARM in 2019 with the World Federation of Advertisers, he complained that “[p]eople are advocating for freedom of speech online” and using a “‘radical interpretation[]’” of freedom of speech.” To curb this First Amendment phenomenon and prevent it from going global, he called for an “uncommon collaboration” to “rise above individual commercial interest.”

“For an organization reliant on speech and persuasion in advertising, GARM appears to have anti-democratic views of fundamental American freedoms,” the report warns.

GARM claims to “safeguard the potential of digital media by reducing the availability and monetization of harmful content online” using a Steer Team of four major advertisers (Proctor & Gamble, Mars, Unilever, and Diageo), the world’s largest media buying agency (GroupM), and three trade associations.

“GARM also includes the so-called ‘Big Six’ as members. In the advertising industry, the ‘Big Six’ refer to the ‘biggest ad agency holding companies around the world.’ Together, these companies hold nearly every major advertising agency,” the report notes.

Section 1 of the Sherman Act prohibits organizations like GARM from conspiracy against commerce or restraint of trade. House Republicans, however, warned the ongoing “collusion” between GARM and the world’s largest advertisers inevitably results in unjust viewpoint censorship of popular dissidents over their First Amendment-protected speech.

When Elon Musk took over Twitter and turned it into X, GARM, at the behest of Rakowitz, organized a boycott among its members to prevent advertisers from spending their money there. Rakowitz denied his role in the coordinated campaign against Musk’s free speech efforts in a transcribed interview with Republican investigators, but documents obtained by the committee indicate he “took credit for Twitter’s revenue decline.”

Steer Team member Unilever also complained to Rakowitz about “issues” with the platform’s “overtly partisan takes (e.g., Hunter Biden laptop exposé.)”

GARM applied similar tactics against “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2022 after Steer Team member Joe Barone of GroupM determined that advertisers and platforms like Spotify should be concerned about the alleged “misinformation” about Covid-19 shots touted by the top podcaster. The committee noted that “GroupM knew there was no brand safety concern because it did not buy advertisements on Mr. Rogan’s podcast, but it still sought to silence Mr. Rogan’s views anyway” by bringing their concerns to GARM.

Coca-Cola also approached GARM about Spotify and Rogan’s show. Rakowitz “indicated he could not collectively tell every GARM member what to do” because it “gets us into hot water by way of anticompetitive and collusive behaviors,” so “instead, he advised GARM members individually what to do, effectively aligning all GARM members.”

“Mr. Rakowitz’s power comes from the members of GARM and their advertising dollars. Because power lies with the members, when members communicate an opinion to Mr. Rakowitz, he is likely to communicate that opinion on to the platforms. Ultimately, when platforms receive the message from Mr. Rakowitz, the companies have the choice to cede to his demands or risk losing their advertising revenue,” the report notes.

GARM doesn’t simply use its own influence to convince companies to turn against dissenters. The organization also pushes companies to use rankings from government-backed censors like Global Disinformation Index (GDI) and NewsGuard, which repeatedly blacklist conservative outlets such as The Federalist, to determine who bears the brunt of their coordinated boycotts.

News outlets like The Daily Wire, Breitbart, and even Fox News that might “cross the line” by offering what the committee called “disfavored views” were also heavily surveilled and scrutinized by Steer Team members like GroupM who used emails to discuss their hatred for the publications’ conservative roots.

The cherry on top of all of GARM’s scheming was when the organization “pushed Facebook for coordinated action around the upcoming elections similar to the actions the platform took during the COVID-19 pandemic to censor speech.” Steer Team member Unilever even pressured Facebook to censor one of former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign ads discussing “Sleepy Joe.”

“GARM and its members weaponize their power to influence elections … through pressuring platforms to label content as misinformation,” the report notes.

Republican investigators said that GARM’s “collusive conduct to demonetize disfavored content is alarming.”

“The extent to which GARM has organized its trade association and coordinates actions that rob consumers of choices is likely illegal under the antitrust laws and threatens fundamental American freedoms,” the report concludes.

The House Judiciary published the report the same day it hosted a hearing exploring “collusion in the Global Alliance for Responsible Media” and “whether existing civil and criminal penalties and current antitrust law enforcement efforts are sufficient to deter anticompetitive collusion in online advertising.”


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