CNN has taken it upon themselves to contact companies whose advertisements have been played on the InfoWars-linked Alex Jones Channel on YouTube, resulting in a flood of major brands blacklisting the channels for future ad spending.
CNN has discovered ads on InfoWars' channels from companies and organizations such as Nike (NKE), Acer, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Network, the Mormon Church, Moen, Expedia (EXPE), Alibaba (BABA), HomeAway, Mozilla, the NRA, Honey, Wix and ClassPass.
Even an ad for USA for UNHCR, a group that supports the UN refugee agency UNHCR, asking for donations for Rohingya refugees was shown on an InfoWars YouTube channel.
Many of the brands -- including Nike, Moen, Expedia, Acer, ClassPass, Honey, Alibaba and OneFamily -- have suspended ads on InfoWars' channels after being contacted by CNN for comment. The companies, with the exception of Alibaba, which declined to comment, said they had been unaware their ads were running on The Alex Jones Channel. CNN discovered the HomeAway advertising shortly before publishing this story, and has not yet received a response from that company.
The various brands purchased ad campaigns from marketing agencies or directly through YouTube parent company Google - which direct advertisements at specific demographics. Companies often don't know where their ads are displayed, however they can use exclusion filters to black list channels or content they don't wish to advertise with.
Scores of conservative and "conspiracy" YouTube channels have been hit with strikes and bans over the last several weeks following the Parkland Florida School Shooting. In particular, videos suggesting that survivor David Hogg was being coached or is a paid crisis actor have been struck from the platform and measures taken against uploaders.
YouTube admitted they had been overly aggressive in their recent enforcement, blaming "newer members" of its 10,000 large team of moderators.
"As we work to hire rapidly and ramp up our policy enforcement teams throughout 2018, newer members may misapply some of our policies resulting in mistaken removals," wrote a YouTube spokesman in an email. "We’re continuing to enforce our existing policies regarding harmful and dangerous content, they have not changed. We’ll reinstate any videos that were removed in error."
The Alex Jones Channel received two "strikes" from YouTube during the controversy, however the second strike was removed hours later with no explanation. Similarly, InfoWars fixture Dr. Jerome Corsi's YouTube channel was permanently banned on Thursday - only to be restored hours later with a similar lack of explanation.
And while YouTube may have overstepped its bounds, CNN has taken the attack straight to the bottom line by encouraging advertisers to blacklist Alex Jones related content.
Starving Jones To Death
This isn't the first time advertisers have blacklisted InfoWars. Last February, the InfoWars website was dropped by San Francisco advertising agency AdRoll the day after Jones did an interview with the (failing) New York Times - costing Jones an estimated $5 million per year of income.
AdRoll told Jones that they were dropping him due to the fact that products are "retargeted" to the InfoWars website - a practice of relevant advertisements jumping from site to site to follow consumer browsing habits.
Still, one can't help but wonder if the political ideology of the San Francisco-based ad agency had something to do with the decision: several high level AdRoll employees have donated money to democratic causes over the past several elections. CEO Aaron Bell is also a huge fan of Bill Gates - having grown up in Washington and worked at Microsoft where he stalked the Billionaire at their annual employee barbecue.
Interestingly, AdRoll's head of retargeting, Peter Clark, contributed to the "Democratic Hope Fund" in 2015.
InfoWars isn't the first conservative outlet to suffer from politically motivated advertising hits. In November 2016, Breitbart.com was dropped by AppNexus - one of the largest digital ad agencies in the world.
“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,” said Josh Zietz of AppNexus. “This blacklist was solely about hate speech violation."
In any case, with InfoWars facing attacks on all fronts, it looks like they'll be down to water filters and health supplements going forward as liberal activists such as CNN target their primary source of income.