Facebook is looking into calls to cut off Breitbart from its ad network

The executive chairman of Breitbart News and former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon.

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The executive chairman of Breitbart News and former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon.
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Getty

    Facebook is reviewing complaints received about content on far-right website Breitbart. An anti-Breitbart group claims that Breitbart’s content violates Facebook standards. Facebook’s head of marketing sent an email Wednesday noting that content advertisers disagree with “may be allowed” to remain on Facebook’s ad network.

Facebook said Thursday that it’s looking into calls to cut off the far-right website Breitbart from its ad network.

The confirmation to Business Insider comes after an email from Facebook marketing VP Carolyn Everson was sent Wednesday to members of the anti-Breitbart, online activist group Sleeping Giants. In the email, Everson said that while she respected “feelings” against Breitbart, “publishers whose content you may disagree with may be allowed to continue within the Audience Network.”

Since 2014, Facebook’s Audience Network has allowed the company to show ads on other sites and apps around the web in a way that’s similar to Google’s ad business. Facebook has made billions of dollars from ads shown through the Audience Network to date.

Since late last year, calls to blacklist Breitbart from ad networks have been rallied by the anonymous Sleeping Giants group, which shared the recent email from Facebook’s Everson acknowledging the complaints with Business Insider:

An email from Facebook's VP of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, that was sent to people calling for Facebook to block Breitbart from its ad business.

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An email from Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, that was sent to people calling for Facebook to block Breitbart from its ad business.
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Sleeping Giants

Advertisers first began clamoring for ad giants like Google and Facebook to block Breitbart in December 2016, shortly after one of the world’s largest ad exchanges, AppNexus, blacklisted the site. Due to the nature of so-called programmatic advertising, brands run the risk of their ads being shown next to content they don’t want to be associated with unless they elect to blacklist certain sites from their campaigns.

By February 2017, more than 1,000 advertisers had pulled their ads from Breitbart, which is now led by Trump’s ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon and employs the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

Breitbart opponents like Sleeping Giants contend that stories and reader comments on the site qualify as hate speech under Facebook’s community standards, which prohibit organizations that discriminate or encourage discrimination against people based on attributes like sex, religion, and ethnicity.

Breitbart is a “litmus test”

In a post shared Wednesday with its 40,000 Facebook followers, Sleeping Giants called Breitbart a “litmus test” for Facebook’s “brand safety measures” and policy enforcement.

“Advertisers who participate in Audience Network have control over where their ads appear,” Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president of publisher solutions said in a statement shared with Business Insider. “If they don’t want their ads to appear on a specific site or app, that’s their choice and they can block them.”

“We also have Community Standards and policies that publishers must follow to participate in Audience Network,” said Boland. “We’re reviewing the complaints we received. If publishers don’t meet our standards, we can revoke their participation.”

A spokesperson for Breitbart didn’t respond to a request for comment by publishing time. Google has yet to publicly comment on similar calls for it to cut off Breitbart from its ad business.