House Judiciary GOP: World’s biggest brands seek to control online speech

A stunning new House committee report reveals a level of “corporate collusion” aimed at controlling conservative speech online.

The House Judiciary Committee released the shocking report Wednesday, exposing how companies that purport to be members of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media’s (GARM) Steer Team allegedly tried to “deprive” conservatives of advertising dollars, thereby violating antitrust laws, according to Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

“Through GARM, large corporations, advertising agencies, and industry associations participated in boycotts and other coordinated action to demonetize platforms, podcasts, news outlets, and other content deemed disfavored by GARM and its members,” the report reads. “This collusion can have the effect of eliminating a variety of content and viewpoints available to consumers.”

The damning report was released just ahead of a hearing with testimony expected from Herrish Patel, President of Unilever USA, and Christian Juhl, Global Chief Executive Officer of GroupM. The report even caught the attention of X owner Elon Musk, who found it “Extremely concerning!”

“GARM, an initiative of the powerful World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), holds tremendous market power in the advertising industry,” the Judiciary Committee explained in a press release announcing the report, titled, “GARM’S Harm: How the World’s Biggest Brands Seek to Control Online Speech.”

Rob Rakowitz, the group’s leader and co-founder allegedly “provided … inaccurate information” repeatedly and contradicted documented evidence obtained by the committee.

“Through its immense power influence, GARM allegedly participates in activities far more serious than its stated aim of promoting “brand safety,” even veering into content moderation of television, social media, and the internet,” according to the press release. “Documents obtained by the committee reveal the extent of GARM’s collaboration among some of the most powerful global corporations to silence conservative media, including Breitbart News.”

The press release explained that GroupM’s strategy “when it comes to news outlets offering disfavored views, even before the outlet might somehow ‘cross[] the line,’ is to closely monitor the outlets until it finds something to justify placing the entire outlet on a list of websites on which GroupM clients cannot advertise, called an exclusion list.”

According to the press release:

One of GARM’s proposed solutions to control advertising on news outlets was to create a system in which only “legitimate news” received funding, and all advertising revenue was steered away from so-called “disinformation sites.” To classify “legitimate news,” GARM stepped outside the Steer Team and approached outside organizations such as the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) and NewsGuard. […]

On the contrary, the list of “Least risky sites” included left-leaning news sources such BuzzFeed News and HuffPost. NewsGuard has also come under scrutiny for using incorrect fact checking in its work—for example, flagging accurate stories about the COVID-19 lab leak theory and a Gaza hospital explosion from a misfired Hamas rocket as misinformation. NewsGuard regularly targets conservative media outlets with the alleged goal of limiting advertising revenue.

 

The group also reportedly targeted podcaster Joe Rogan over his views about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Frieda Powers

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