As far-right extremist groups infiltrate the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests that have exploded across the country, tech companies are taking steps to address the extremist groups and far-right publications fanning the flames. Google announced Tuesday that it had officially banned the far-right website Zero Hedge from its advertising platform, after comments on the website violated Google’s policies on race. “We have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on and explicitly prohibit derogatory content that promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race from monetizing,” a Google spokesperson told NBC News, which first reported the news. “When a page or site violates our policies, we take action.”
Zero Hedge’s Google ad ban came after the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a British nonprofit, listed the website as one of 10 far-right publications that Google should ban from its ad platform for spreading harmful misinformation. “The money these sites receive from Google allows them to publish more content that puts people in harm’s way,” a petition on the nonprofit’s website argues. Though Google has specifically taken action against Zero Hedge over its comment section, the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s “blacklist” highlights other instances of misinformation on the site, including claiming Black Lives Matter is a “practically a revolutionary operative of the CIA via Soros” and “a George Soros ‘Astroturf’ campaign for ‘leftists and their agenda to reshape the fabric of American society.’” (Zero Hedge was also previously banned by Twitter in January after the website published an article claiming to identify a Chinese scientist involved in the coronavirus outbreak, but the social network recently reversed its decision.) A second publication on the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s list, The Federalist, was also given a warning by Google over its racist comments section and was set to be demonetized as well. The publication responded by removing its comments section entirely, and Google later said in a statementthat it had “worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section.”
Facebook also took action on Tuesday to combat far-right extremism, as ABC News reports that the company has taken down hundreds of accounts tied to the Proud Boys and American Guard, two white supremacist groups that have been identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The social media network had originally initiated its effort to take down the groups on May 30, after seeing that organizers from both groups were planning to “send armed agitators” to racial justice protests. “In both cases, we saw accounts from both organizations discussing attending protests in various US states with plans to carry weapons but we did not find indications in their on-platform content they planned to actively commit violence,” Facebook said Tuesday.
Far-right extremist groups have become a persistent issue in the nationwide protests tied to the killing of George Floyd, as the groups have reportedly taken advantage of the ongoing unrest and infiltrated the racial justice gatherings. Devin Burghart, president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, told the Kansas City Star that his organization has found that various far-right extremist groups have been present at 40 protests related to Floyd’s death nationwide, and a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seen by Reuters found that “white supremacists were working online to increase tensions between protesters and law enforcement by calling for acts of violence against both groups.” “What we do know is that there were a number of extremists—including a number of far right extremists—who are trying to take advantage of this moment and exploit it for their own gain,” Amy Spitalnick, executive director of the nonprofit Integrity First for America, toldKCRW on June 2. (President Donald Trumpand his administration have instead tried to blame the unrest and violence on antifa, despite a clear lack of evidence. One Twitter account claiming to be Antifa and calling for violence was in fact run by the white supremacist group Identity Evropa.)