Google has cut off advertising revenue to one right-wing website and threatened to do so with another because their comments sections contain "derogatory" race-based content, the company said Tuesday.
Google said user posts on ZeroHedge and The Federalist failed to meet its standards and that the sites would be blocked from using the Google Ad platform if they didn't remove the offensive comments. The company has already cut off ZeroHedge and plans to do the same for The Federalist if it does not act soon.
"We have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on, which includes comments on the site. If the site remedies the issues with derogatory or offensive comments, they can be reinstated," said Google in a statement. "This is a longstanding policy." That policy prohibits content that promotes race-based violence, hate or discrimination, it said.
Both sites have published articles that are critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and recent demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but Google said its actions were not related to the sites' articles.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who has accused Silicon Valley companies of anti-conservative bias in the past, took aim at the decision in a tweet Tuesday.
"Google dominates the search business, they dominate the ad business, and now they want to dominate what you’re allowed to think," Blackburn tweeted.
Google's move comes as social media and internet firms increasingly face politically fraught decisions about when to remove or otherwise penalize content from users that promotes violence or spreads misinformation, particularly when those posts come from political figures and institutions.
Twitter notably triggered a fight with the White House after taking action against President Donald Trump's tweets in recent weeks, including one that threatened military force against peaceful protesters. For some conservatives, Silicon Valley's slap on the wrist is a "badge of honor."
Google's choice to punish a site over reader comments also comes at a time when the company is staving off attacks on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that, in part, protects firms from lawsuits over material shared or created by users.