Major online ad technology company AppNexus will blacklist rightwing media outlet Breitbart, saying the company is in violation of its hate speech rules. Breitbart was run by President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, until this summer.
The site has become increasingly popular this year, with 19 million unique visitors in October, up significantly from 12m the previous year.
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AppNexus told Bloomberg that it believed the site’s content has the potential to incite violence. “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,” an AppNexus spokesman, Joshua Zeitz, said.
“We determined that Breitbart was out of compliance with our hate speech rules,” Zeitz told the Guardian. “Hate speech being one of several prohibited categories.”
Bannon himself has come under fire for presiding over Breitbart when it published stories with headlines such as “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew”, “Democrats Vote the Mentally Disabled” and an interview with Roger Stone that quoted the conspiracy-loving Republican operative claiming that Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin was “most likely a Saudi spy” with connections to a “global terrorist entity”. The site has also warned of a “Muslim invasion”.
AppNexus handles about $2.5bn in ad spending per year. The company made its fortune deploying ads strategically in milliseconds across a wide variety of websites in an industry where large ad buys were traditionally planned far in advance. Now, the rapid deployment of advertising is the norm, rather than the exception.
Companies like AppNexus are vital in an advertising ecosystem where companies are anxious about their logos appearing alongside controversial speech. News and news-like content fares particularly poorly in this world. Advertising, more than other industries, tends to be sensitive to the pressures of changing demographics; Breitbart’s championing of white rights is a hard sell in an increasingly multiracial marketplace.