Docs Show Corporate Giants Are ‘Colluding To Demonetize Conservative Platforms,’ Judiciary Committee Says

Advertising industry’s anti-conservative blacklist campaign could violate antitrust laws, Rep. Jim Jordan says
Mars Inc., the company behind M&Ms, is a key member of a group of advertisers seeking to withhold ads from disfavored news outlets.(photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Mars Inc., the company behind M&Ms, is a key member of a group of advertisers seeking to withhold ads from disfavored news outlets.(photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether major advertisers ran afoul of antitrust laws by coordinating about which news outlets to blackball. 

The committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), obtained documents from the World Federation of Advertisers that show how it implemented a strategy to prevent major advertisers from doing business with disfavored news outlets. The coordinated effort could have the effect of bankrupting news organizations that don’t get the stamp of approval.

“The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) through its Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) initiative may be acting inconsistent with U.S. antitrust laws and congressional intent by coordinating GARM members’ efforts to demonetize and eliminate disfavored content online,” Jordan wrote in March 27 letter demanding further documents from advertisers.

“Evidence the Committee has obtained suggests that GARM members, led by Steer Team members, are colluding to demonetize conservative platforms and voices. Further, this coordination does not always revolve around ‘brand safety’ and ‘harmful’ content as GARM publicly claims, but instead the desire to censor conservative and other views that GARM members disfavor,” Jordan added.

The letters indicate that documents obtained by the committee suggest that the group tried to blackball mainstream conservative news organizations, specifically asking for “communications referring or relating to conservative news outlets, including Fox News, Daily Wire, and Breitbart.”

The letters went to major corporations on GARM’s “steering committee” — Unilever, Procter & Gamble, GroupM, Diageo, and Mars — saying the documents “directly connect” the companies with such efforts. The documents in the active investigation have not been released to the public.

The letters seek communications from the companies “relating to the categorization, demonetization, or elimination of online speech.”

They also ask for communications discussing “changes to X following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company,” when many advertisers left the platform in protest of the left-wing Jack Dorsey being replaced by the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The probe suggests that the companies could be held individually responsible for the actions of the group they created, and that GARM may act in a cartel-like manner, even though many of its members are nominally competitors. 

WFA announced the GARM’s creation at the 2019 Cannes festival, a gathering of global elites, amidst complaints about “disinformation” and “fake news,” but later that year said it would become a flagship project of the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s “Platform for Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Culture.”

In an announcement that seemed like something from Darth Vader, the World Economic Forum stated, “The Global Alliance is creating a safe media ecosystem.” 

“GARM focuses on viewer safety for consumers, reducing risks for advertisers, developing credibility for digital platforms and, more broadly, ensuring a sustainable online ecosystem,” it said. “Partners involved in the Global Alliance for Responsible Media through the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Sport include companies such as LEGO Group, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, NBC Universal – MSNBC, Dentsu Group, WPP (through GroupM), Interpublic Group, Publicis Groupe, Omnicom Group, Facebook and Google.”

READ MORE: Ben Shapiro Details The Global Entities Working To ‘Demonetize And Deplatform’ Conservative Voices

In 2022, GARM added “misinformation” to the types of online content that it views as unethical to run ads against.

It said companies should look to firms like NewsGuard, the Global Disinformation Index, and the Journalism Trust Initiative to decide which news outlets to do business with, writing that the groups “can help ensure that ad buyers and users looking for news can be in safe and suitable places.”

GARM says it provides members with “Brand Safety.” For-profit firms like Newsguard have shown what that means in practice: Companies that might buy ads are given lists of what TV programs, channels, podcasts, or newspapers are either safe to advertise on or should be avoided. This is billed as avoiding risks to their reputation or boycotts—essentially saying that if a company wants to avoid boycotts from the Left or smear campaigns, they should not do business with certain media outlets.

In a progress report in 2022, GARM boasted of qualities that, viewed in another light, could show anti-competitive practices.

“GARM’s launch was propelled forward by uncommon collaboration, a unique way of working recognizing that all sectors of the advertising industry and companies benefit from partnering to create new brand safety standards and solutions that could be accepted industry-wide, where there had been no established protocols,” it said.

The challenge of meaningfully steering the entire media ecosystem was “big,” it said, yet GARM included 61 major companies that buy a large portion of the advertising in the world, as well as 35 separate industry associations that represent many more advertisers.

The WFA, along with the Global Disinformation Index, Newsguard, and other firms that would profit from “disinformation” crackdowns, lobbied the European Union for a “Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation” in 2022.

Companies that want to advertise are likely to defer judgement to such nominal “experts” about who is credible, leading to wide-scale, coordinated blacklists. But those purported experts have rated even the most measured and staid news outlets as risky if they are conservative, such as the New York Post and Reason Magazine.

Such news outlet raters often assign credibility ratings based on how closely news outlets hew to official government lines, dinging outlets for questioning, for example, whether COVID could have come from a lab — a theory discouraged by the government at the time, but now largely supported by the government.

Newsguard even worked directly with the U.S. government, leading The Daily Wire and the Federalist to sue the State Department in a lawsuit that alleged “one of the most audacious, manipulative, secretive, and gravest abuses of power and infringements of First Amendment rights by the federal government in American history.”

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