In the wake of last week's controversial video that asserted the Parkland shooting was a conspiracy and that young activist victims were "crisis actors" (posted on Alex Jones' Infowars affiliated YouTube channel), many brands are deciding that associating with Jones and his crackpot conspiracy theories may not be such a good look.
Maybe because CNN decided to call them out on their support of Jones' YouTube channel on Saturday?
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.
Jones' channel received its first strike from YouTube on February 23, triggered by a video called "David Hogg Can't Remember His Lines In TV Interview," which claimed the teen victim was a "crisis actor." YouTube issued Jones his second strike in violation of their Community Guidelines last week, in response to two videos titled, "What Is To Blame For The Florida High School Shooting?" and "The Truth About Crisis Actors In The Florida Shooting."
The social media backlash seemed to prompt warnings from YouTube regarding Jones' clear violation of community guidelines. All three videos are factually inaccurate and make baseless claims, while spinning Jones' whacked out brand of conspiracy theories.
YouTube said it will terminate the channel if it receives one more violation within the three-month time frame.
While many brands rely on partners at social media outlets like YouTube for targeted audience ad placement, brands can ensure their ads do not end up on content they deem inappropriate or not in line with their image or values. Employing filters by check box, these advertisers can exercise a bit more control over where ads are placed and potentially sidestep sensitive or controversial subjects.
In this case, it appears these filters either weren't employed or weren't working properly, as at least a few brands expressed concern over filters they thought were in place but failed to perform as anticipated.
Nike and others told CNN they had opted in to a "sensitive subject exclusion" filter. CNN reported:
[Nike] has since asked YouTube to address why the channel wasn't flagged by a filter it had enabled and that they were disturbed to learn that we appeared on [The Alex Jones Channel].
Many took to Twitter in support of the brands' decision:
Thanks @Nike @Expedia & @AlibabaGroup for yanking ads from Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist @RealAlexJones' YouTube channel as soon as you realized they were there. @Google: you need to make it easier for brands to avoid such content in the first place. https://t.co/6sX1XZ3Go0— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) March 3, 2018
Companies like @Nike, @Expedia & @AlibabaGroup were unaware they had ads running on YouTube channels for far-right website InfoWars and its founder Alex Jones. Ad space needs better management, inappropriate for @YouTube + @Google to profit from extremism. https://t.co/qMVIfFtXBU— Mubaraz Ahmed (@MubarazAhmed) March 5, 2018
And gave credit where credit was due:
It took 6 yrs & many ppl incl. a high school student who survived a gun massacre to hold wacko liar Alex Jones responsible for broadcasting false, despicable stories &get paid for it. Why? @davidhogg111 @megynkelly @ELaffGarb @Google @Youtube @Nike @20thcenturyfox @brianstelter https://t.co/hxlFz6tH6e— #mapoli, Vote #NoOn2 (@RWwatchMA) March 4, 2018
Acer confirmed to CNN that the company had since set up additional filters to keep its ads from appearing on "divisive channels in the future," and said they had also reached out to YouTube directly.
Acer's spokesperson told CNN:
...existing filters should have prevented this.
CNN noted that YouTube had not yet responded to their inquiries.
H/T: Mashable, CNN