New Delhi: A London-based campaign group called ‘Stop Funding Hate,’ which is working towards persuading advertisers to not support outlets or publications that ‘spread hate’, has urged companies to remove their ads from OpIndia, a right-wing website, which is known for spreading misinformation.
Speaking to The Quint, director of the group, Richard Wilson, said that “OpIndia is becoming internationally notorious for its hateful and discriminatory coverage” and that the group felt sure that mainstream ad companies wouldn’t want to be aligned with it.
“We were already aware of the concerns that many people have about this. But then, a few days ago we were contacted by someone who highlighted OpIndia’s article stating that ‘non-Muslims have the right to advertise that they don’t hire Muslims’. We’ve seen a lot of hateful media headlines in the past few years, but we’ve rarely seen such overt advocacy of discrimination on religious grounds,” Wilson added.
In case of OpIndia, the group has, so far, seen responses from four advertisers – Harry’s, a men’s personal care product brand, Kiddylicious, a food company for kids, LiveWorx, a technology conference and industrial marketplace and MUBI India, an online movie theatre.
While the latter three have confirmed that they are pulling down their ads, the former has agreed to review their advertising.
Further, American online advertising technology firm, Rubicon Project, has also dropped the right-wing portal from its inventory.
While these are the companies who have responded to the group, Wilson added that many others have been contacted and it is likely that ‘some have also made changes quietly behind the scenes’.
The group also urges people on Twitter to take screenshots of the ads that appear on the website and tag the company to persuade them to take action. Some ads which appear on the website include that of TataSky and Spotify.
‘Have Heard People Raising Concerns About Republic Bharat’
On being questioned about the other media group or publications that the group is currently looking into, Wilson said that they people have raised concerns about Republic Bharat.
We have heard lots of people raising concerns about Republic Bharat’s track record, and as more global brands become aware of the issues with its coverage, it is possible that more companies may begin to question their association.Richard Wilson, Director, Stop Funding Hate
Wilson also told us that Renault pulled their advertising from the channel after a consumer mobilisation campaign by activists across Europe.
In an article published on 23 April, Newslaundry had highlighted that Renault was a major sponsor of a Republic Bharat show hosted by Arnab Goswami on the Palghar lynching. Goswami gave the incident a communal angle, while none existed. Stop Funding Hate also played a role in amplifying the campaign to pull down the ads.
Interestingly, Ofcom, the broadcasting authority in the United Kingdom, is investigating Republic Bharat TV for potential breach of standards. Though based in India, since Republic is available in the UK, it is subject to Ofcom oversight. As per the information made available, the investigation is regarding a broadcast on 19 February.
‘Stop Funding Hate Aims to Make Hate Unprofitable’
Wilson said that because of the way online advertising works, brands might be unaware of where their advertisement appears, but they might want to take action once they find out.
Across the world, the rise of online advertising has fuelled a surge in hateful “clickbait” news sites which boost their web traffic – and therefore their revenue – by running inflammatory stories demonising minority groups. The targets may vary from country to country, but the underlying mechanism remains the same.Richard Wilson, Director, Stop Funding Hate
Advertisers can either directly choose to advertise on websites or do it indirectly through Google AdSense, in which case they might not be aware of where their ads appear, but they can opt out.
Wilson said that “More and more global advertisers are becoming aware of the brand risks of being associated with hateful and extremist media content such as this article from OpIndia. If the current situation continues, then more international brands and agencies may take action to exclude OpIndia from their online advertising programmes.”
He also said that “Stop Funding Hate aims to challenge this by making hate unprofitable” adding that big advertisers ensuring that they don’t fund ‘media that fuels hatred’ will be an example for the smaller groups.
The group was launched in 2016 because of the rise in hate crime that happened in Britain at that time.