- NBC reported Tuesday morning that two conservative outlets were being banned from participating in Google Ads.
- Google later backtracked and said that wasn’t accurate, and that one was given a warning.
- Both face criticisms over censorship claims, as well as claims this was a targeted attack on conservative outlets by NBC.
Conflicting Stories from Google and NBC
Google found itself in the middle of a censorship controversy after it banned ZeroHedge and The Federalist— two notable conservative publications— from participating in its Google Ads program. NBC, which first reported on the story, has also found itself facing criticisms over using information to silence another outlet.
On Monday night, NBC reached out to Google regarding some research done by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a British nonprofit that combats online hate and misinformation.
That research claimed ZeroHedge and The Federalist were running articles about Black Lives Matter that were racist, included false narratives, and called for advertisers to stop funding the sites. Google replied to NBC and allegedly said they’ve already banned ZeroHedge and The Federalist from the Google Ads program, explaining that:
“We have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on and explicitly prohibit derogatory content that promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race from monetizing. When a page or site violates our policies, we take action. In this case, we’ve removed both sites’ ability to monetize with Google.”
On Tuesday morning, NBC published their article and ran Google’s statement; ZeroHedge had already been banned by Google and The Federalist was also demonetized for promoting hatred, intolerance, violence, or other discrimanation after learning about research from the CCDH.
What was the infringing content? Well, if the decision was based on CCDH’s report, “The Federalist has: Claimed CNN/New York Times reports were “lying” about white supremacist violence,” and “used ‘black crime; as a tag for its articles.”
While “ZeroHedge has: Claimed that Black Lives Matter is ‘practically a revolutionary operative of the CIA via Soros,’” and “Suggested Black Lives Matter is a George Soros ‘Astroturf’ campaign for “leftists and their agenda to reshape the fabric of American society.”
This isn’t the first time either publication has come into trouble with a tech company. In March, The Federalist published an article where they told people to voluntarily get infected with COVID-19 to help with herd immunity. Twitter responded by temporarily locking the site’s account until a tweet promoting the article was deleted. Zero Hedge was recently unbanned by Twitter after being suspended in January for promoting a conspiracy theory about a Chinese scientist. Twitter eventually decided the decision was “an error.”
Following news that Google banned the two conservative outlets, other outlets began reaching out to Google for a statement and received information that conflicted with NBC’s article. When responding to The Verge, Google said that The Federalist wasn’t demonetized; only warned that they were going to be demonetized. Google later clarified their stance on Twitter, writing:
“The Federalist was never demonetized. We worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section.”
They also linked to a 2017 statement that instructs publications to police comments sections to be advertiser friendly, and continued on Twitter:
“Our policies do not allow ads to run against dangerous or derogatory content, which includes comments on sites, and we offer guidance and best practices to publishers on how to comply. As the comment section has now been removed, we consider this matter resolved and no action will be taken.”
Following this, NBC found themselves embroiled in controversy. Currently their article reads:
“Google’s ban comes after the company was notified of research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a British nonprofit that combats online hate and misinformation.”
But that’s not what they originally wrote. In their original article, NBC stated that they brought CCHD’s research to Google’s attention, writing:
“Google blocked The Federalist from its advertising platform after the NBC News Verification Unit brought the project to its attention.”
That action and phrasing led to major backlash for the publication. Sean Davos, the co-founder of The Federalist, told Tucker Carlson:
“It looks like NBC… had partnered with a foreign left-wing group in Europe to go after us and to use Google to go after us… This is a pretty powerful example of the unholy union of corrupt media and monopolistic tech oligarchs.”
Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro also went after NBC for seemingly putting the CCDH’s report in front of Google and implying they demanded action.
The writer of the story, Adele-Momoko Fraser, has since gone on to clarify NBC’s connection with the CCDH’s research. Not only did the article imply that they found the research, but her original tweet about it looked like NBC was involved with the research, and later added:
“To clarify this earlier tweet, we obtained this research exclusively from @SSFakeNews but we did not collaborate on the research itself.”
Beyond that, plenty of people gave their opinion about the situation as a whole. Before Google issued its clarification, right-wing pundit Stephen Miller tweeted out, “the fact Google and NBC News are now defunding websites over commentary is going to have disastrous side effects and backlash.”
Following everything that happened on June 16th, Senator Ted Cruz released a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and demanded answers for why The Federalist was being reprimanded for its comment section.
“The recent actions of Google to “demonetize” a conservative media publisher, The Federalist, raise serious concerns that Google is abusing its monopoly power in an effort to censor political speech with which it disagrees.”
“…Google appears to have backtracked, saying that the decision to “demonetize” The Federalist is not due to the article itself, but instead due to offensive comments that allegedly violated Google advertising policies.”
“Numerous “progressive” media outlets allow comments, including, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Wonkette, Slate, Jezebel, The Root, salon, The Intercept, The Young Turks, and many others… any objective review would no doubt demonstrate at least as many profane, racist, or indefensible user comments on these other sites that would equally violate Google’s alleged standards.”
“But one need not look that far. On any given day there are thousand of profane, racist, and indefensible comments posted on YouTube, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Google.”
Cruz then drew a parallel between how Google is defended by Section 230 from the speech posted by their users while not extending those same protections to companies using Google Ads. Cruz ended by requesting that Google turn over communications between it, The Federalist, and The Center for Countering Digital hate within seven days.
Cruz also asked the company if they’ve examined the comments of progressive platforms and if they’ve applied the same standard The Federalist was reviewed under to them. He also asked if Google applied the same standard to YouTube comments, or if the company gave preferential treatment to its subsidiary.
Google has yet to respond to Cruz’s request.
Morphe Ends “Commercial Activity” With Jeffree Star
- When YouTuber Shane Dawson came under fire for his history of racist content and jokes about pedophilia, the makeup retailer Morphe pulled his Conspiracy collection from sale.
- But the brand was slammed by influencers and customers for continuing its partnership with Jeffree Star despite his history of racism, as well as allegations of abusive comments, blackmail, gaslighting, and more.
- Now Morphe says it will “cease all commercial activity related to Jeffree Star and affiliated products.”
- Some are concerned that its emphasis on “commercial activity” could mean that it’s still connected to Star in other ways. However, Morphe has previously denied rumors that Star is a co-owner or investor.
Beauty Community Pulls Support From Morphe
Makeup retailer Morphe announced Friday that it was cutting ties with Jeffree Star following a huge wave of public outrage and controversy within YouTube’s beauty community.
The massive beauty influencer has remained pretty silent since fellow Youtuber Tati Westbrook’s explosive video, “Breaking My Silence.” In that 40-minute video, she suggested that both Star and YouTuber Shane Dawson manipulated her into filming her infamous “Bye Sister” video about James Charles and orchestrated the backlash against him last year.
After Westbrook’s latest claims, the immediate outrage came against Dawson, who was forced to confront a long history of content that includes racist jokes or caricatures and remarks about pedophilia, among other concerning topics.
But people haven’t forgotten about Star. For weeks, he’s faced both new and old allegations of racism, abusive comments, blackmail, gaslighting, and more. Unlike Dawson however, he hasn’t said a word about it.
At the peak of the outrage against Dawson, retailers like Target cut ties with him while YouTube suspended monetization on his channels. Another standout move came from Morphe, which pulled his Conspiracy makeup collection from sale.
Morphe’s move caused some controversy itself. Some called it performative considering the fact that the brand still sold Jeffree Star Cosmetics and collaborations it created with Star despite his past.
When asked about this, the brand told customers via email that it did not “condone or agree with the actions and behavior of Shane Dawson.” However, it wrote that “Jeffree Star has acknowledged mistakes made in the past and has apologized, taken accountability, and worked hard to make amends within the community.”
Morphe makes a statement on why they don’t sell Shane Dawson’s palette anymore.— 𝙩𝙚𝙖 𝙨𝙚𝙨𝙝 (@TeaSeshYT) July 1, 2020
They “do not condone” Shane’s actions or behavior but Jeffree Star has “taken accountability and has worked hard to make amends within the community”…. pic.twitter.com/yJwoTUQIyV
Some people felt that wasn’t actually the case and questioned Morphe’s allegiance to Star. In response, many began announcing their plans to stop supporting the brand.
It wasn’t just customers who were upset. Several influencers publicly called out the retailer for working with Star Some took it a step further and even terminated their affiliate codes, like Jackie Aina, Alissa Ashley, and Nicol Concilio.
Alissa Ashley joins the list of beauty YouTubers and influencers cutting ties with Morphe and reveals that Jeffree Star is allegedly a part owner of the beauty retailer. 👀 pic.twitter.com/IR7YVUW00R— THE NEIGHBORHOOD TALK (@TNHTalk) July 2, 2020
Morphe Drops Jeffree Star
Morphe finally addressed concerns Friday when it tweeted a statement that read, “Today we’ve made the decision to cease all commercial activity related to Jeffree Star and affiliated products. We expect this to conclude within the coming weeks. As we look to the future, we will continue to share updates on what lies ahead for the Morphe brand.”
A short time later, Jeffree Star Cosmetics addressed the news, saying it was “shocked and extremely saddened” by Morphe’s decision. It said it was proud of all they had accomplished after five years of working together and then went on to stay it had incredible plans for the remainder of 2020.
Speculation About Language in Statement
Following this news, many online were pleased. Others called it long overdue while some felt it was too little too late.
Aside from those people, there were a lot who were skeptical about the language used in the statement. Those people were particularly focused on the fact that Morphe said it would “cease all commercial activity” with Star.
For instance, one Twitter user wrote, “the use of ’commercial activity’ means something. It means they may still be continuing “investment activity” with JS, meaning he may still make money through them. Why not just say ‘cease all activity’? Words matter.”
That idea feeds into the rumor circulating within the beauty space that Star is a co-owner or investor or Morphe. It’s also a rumor that Westbrook suggested could be true in her recent video.
However, it is worth noting that Morphe has previously disputed the rumor. Following Westbrook’s video, a representative told Insider, “We can confirm that Jeffree Star retains no ownership of Morphe.”
“He’s not an investor. He’s not a co-owner. Our only relationship is through retail distribution of Jeffree Star Cosmetics and our 2019 MorpheX collaboration.”
Despite the statement, people have remained suspicious.
Regardless, Morphe’s announcement is a huge deal because it means that Star’s products will no longer be carried both on its website and in Morphe stores across the country. That move will definitely have a financial impact on both brands, but it seems like it was worth it to Morphe if it meant it could help save its reputation with customers.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Insider) (Teen Vogue)
Influencers Fight to #SaveTikTok Amid Data Concerns
- As privacy concerns over TikTok grow, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said officials were considering a ban of the app.
- TikTok users and creators like Michael Le are trying to fight against this using the hashtag #SaveTikTok, arguing that the app has been a light in dark times for many people.
- On the other hand, big companies like Wells Fargo are telling their employees to delete the app from their work devices, while the DNC and RNC have both warned their staffers about the app.
- Gamer and streamer Ninja announced that he has deleted the app as well, saying he hopes a “less intrusive company” can recreate the successful concept.
TikTok Users Try to Save the App
TikTok creators are fighting to save the video-sharing app from a potential United States ban as security concerns over the platform continue to grow.
In early July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “looking at” banning the app, which is owned by Chinese-based company ByteDance. India banned the app over security concerns in June. Since then, users of the app have been left to wonder where they would go if they lost access to TikTok.
Michael Le, a creator on TikTok who has garnered a following of 33.8 million users, posted a video encouraging people to #SaveTikTok.
“I’m starting a petition with hashtag #SaveTikTok,” Le said in a video that has now been viewed nearly 9 million times and liked by over 2 million people. “2020 has had so many tragedies, and TikTok has been one of the most positive outlets for us all whether it’s watching or creating content,” he continued.
TikTok has been a popular app for a while, but since lockdown measures began in response to the coronavirus pandemic, its popularity has grown even more. It’s become the social media platform of choice for many, particularly Generation Z, as many parts of the world continue to isolate.
According to Sensor Tower, the app has been downloaded 2 billion times. 165 million of those downloads have come from the U.S.
Le said that while the app has “flaws” it has inspired people in hard times and lifted spirits during the pandemic. He asked that people comment #SaveTikTok on his video to create the social petition. As of Monday morning, his video has received over 460,000 comments, many of which use the hashtag. Some of those comments came from other popular creators like Tony Lopez, Jon Klaasen, and Justin Vibes. The #SaveTikTok hashtag has received a total of 311 million views throughout the app.
Concerns Remain Strong
However, not everyone is working to save the app. Some large companies and prominent figures have advocated for deleting TikTok.
Wells Fargo has asked that all its employees delete the app from their work devices because of security concerns. The Democratic and Republican National Committees have even warned that their staffers about the app.
Amazon sent out a memo asking their employees to delete it but quickly backtracked the order, explaining it was sent in error.
On top of all that, popular gamer and streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins announced that he deleted the app and hopes a “less intrusive company” can recreate the successful concept.
As for why so many people are wary of TikTok, many believe that the app is sending user information to China. TikTok has repeatedly denied this, claiming that user safety is their top priority and that they have not and will not share information with China.
Geoffrey Fowler, a technology columnist for the Washington Post, has explained that the app does collect a substantial amount of information of its users. It is not exactly clear whether or not that information makes its way to China, though it is possible. In a Monday morning piece, Fowler wrote that the app collects information on the content you consume, in-app messages you send, as well as location information, your phone contacts, age and other social network connections.
While this is likely not more than the information Facebook might be grabbing from its users, it is still a sturdy haul. To find out what happens with that information, Fowler worked with Patrick Jackson, the chief technology officer at a privacy company called Disconnect to watch data flow out of TikTok. While they did not see it make its way to servers known to be in China, they believe it is possible, and even likely, that data could be transmitted to other locations that they could not verify.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Verge) (Wall Street Journal)
Manufacturer Behind Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty Sues to Keep Coty From Stealing Its Trade Secrets
- Seed Beauty, the company that manufactures Kim Kardashian West and Kylie Jenner’s makeup lines, believes Kylie Cosmetics gave confidential trade secrets to its competitor, Coty Inc, which Jenner sold 51% of her brand to earlier this year.
- Seed is now suing Kylie Cosmetics and Coty in an effort to stop them from sharing and using those secrets.
- The lawsuit comes just days after Seed won a temporary injunction in a similar case against KKW Beauty, which Coty recently acquired 20% of, preventing it from sharing confidential information as well.
- KKW Beauty denied claims that it shared information with Coty, and though Coty and Kylie Cosmetics have not responded to the lawsuit yet, they will likely argue that Seed’s allegations are speculative and that the secrets it claims Kylie Cosmetics shared aren’t actually trade secrets.
Kardashian-Jenner’s Strike Deals With Coty Inc.
The company behind Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian West’s makeup lines, Seed Beauty, is taking legal action to protect its trade secrets now that both stars have massive deals with Coty Inc.
Coty Inc. is the beauty conglomerate that owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen, Rimmel, and others. It has recently made headlines for striking million-dollar deals with the sisters in what some view as an effort to refresh their image and attract a younger audience. For some time now, Coty has been struggling to keep up with its competitors in the industry, so it seems like their new strategy is to link up with more social media-driven brands like Kardashian West and Jenner’s.
Earlier this year, Coty bought 51% of Kylie Cosmetics for $600 million, and just this week, news broke that Kardashian West sold 20% of KKW Beauty to the company for $200 million.
The deals were huge for the sisters, valuing both of their brands at around $1 billion and leaving them each with net worths of $900 million. However, the deals were pretty concerning for Seed Beauty, which partnered with Jenner since her line started in 2016, taking care of logistics, manufacturing, development, storage, and distribution.
Seed also took on the same responsibilities for KKW Beauty when Kardashian West launched the line in 2017. Now, Seed Beauty is worried that Coty has, and will continue to, get access to the secrets that it believes make Seed a strong force in the beauty industry.
Seed Beauty Sues After Kylie Cosmetics Allegedly Shares Trade Secrets
On June 30, Seed Beauty filed a civil lawsuit against Coty and King Kylie, the LLC behind Kylie Cosmetics, to prevent the misappropriation of trade secrets.
The lawsuit says that because of Coty’s inability to “successfully compete in the new digital cosmetics world through its own innovation,” the company has engaged in a plan “to steal the secret sauce behind Seed,” through its deals with the sisters.
The suit claims, “Coty made a $600 million investment in King Kylie, but it really was a subterfuge to learn Seed’s confidential business methodologies.”
“Any competitor who acquired such information would be given an unfair competitive advantage,” it adds.
The suit also alleges that Kylie Cosmetics knowingly shared Seed Beauty’s confidential intellectual property and Coty knowingly accepted that information. The complaint is highly redacted, so it doesn’t specify the secrets that Seed wants to keep private, but it could include things like information about product formulations, information about the business’ core operations, and the structure of its partnerships, according to Forbes.
Seed says it repeatedly asked Kylie Cosmetics not to share certain parts of their partnership agreement over the course of negotiations with Coty, which were rumored to have begun in June of 2019.
However, according to the suit, Jenner’s team refused to confirm or deny whether or not they had shared information. Seed also says it asked Coty not to ask for, or use, its trade secrets, but Coty similarly refused to assure Seed that it wouldn’t.
Now, Seed Beauty is asking the court to permanently bar Kylie Cosmetics from disclosing it’s trade secrets. It’s also asking that the court force Coty to promise not to use information that it’s already allegedly acquired. On top of that, it wants Coty to be prevented from developing any color cosmetics with Kylie Cosmetics for a period of time that was redacted in the suit.
“This action is to stop Coty’s theft of Seed’s pioneering and proprietary digital-first business model that has revolutionized the cosmetics industry,” the suit says.
Injunction Against KKW Beauty
But again, the Seed’s concerns don’t just focus solely on Coty’s relationship with Kylie Cosmetic. In expectation of a Coty-KKW deal, Seed filed a similar lawsuit against KKW Beauty, also seeking protection of its trade secrets.
Seed filed the lawsuit on June 19, likely after learning from its experience with her sister’s deal. KKW Beauty then filed an opposition to the lawsuit, claiming that Seed’s legal action was an “attempt to stifle the success of the Kardashian-Jenner family.” It also argued that KKW Beauty did not share any trade secrets with Coty and requested that the court compel arbitration.
KKW Beauty lawsuit reads, “The purported harm to Seed is entirely speculative, unfounded, and already complete,”
“By contrast, KKW stands to suffer comparatively more significant harm if the Court were to enter the amorphous injunction proposed by Seed.”
Ultimately, the court granted the temporary order, which lasts until August 21. That order prevents the brand from sharing details about its partnership with Seed, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”
Still, that court order didn’t stop Kardashian West and Coty from striking a deal, which was formally announced on June 29, and this legal situation is far from over.
It’s likely that Coty and Kylie Cosmetics will both argue that Seed’s allegations are speculative and that the secrets it claims Kylie Cosmetics shared aren’t actually trade secrets.
Still, the legal battles may be worth it in Seed Beauty’s eyes, as it has built itself quite a good reputation in the industry. According to the lawsuit, Seed goes to great lengths to protect its trade secrets by doing things like limiting access to areas of its factory, requiring all employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, and having security monitor the property.
In the Beauty space, Seed is well known for its speed and efficiency thanks to what it calls its “unique business model,” which makes it capable of turning an idea into a product within weeks. The company is not only known for working with the Kardashian-Jenner’s but is also massively successful for its own line, Colourpop Cosmetics, as well as its partnership with YouTuber Tati Westbrook for her new cosmetics line.
So it’s not surprising to see Seed go to great lengths to keep its secrets to success out of its competitor’s hands.
Coty and Kylie Cosmetics have not yet formally responded to the lawsuit or issued a public comment. The first court hearing is scheduled for October, according to Insider.