Activist's Twitter campaign prompts advertisers to flee Breitbart

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Several major brands are scrubbing their ads from far-right news outlet Breitbart following pressure from social media users.

A makeshift campaign at the center of the boycott effort called Sleeping Giants claims that more than 20 advertisers have either publicly or privately agreed to remove ads from the site, including Kellogg, U.S. Bank and Warby Parker.

Their decisions come amid renewed backlash against the site prompted by Donald Trump's recent appointment of Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist. Critics say the agitative outlet frequently traffics in racist, misogynist and homophobic content.

Kellogg, the most notable advertiser to join the fray, said in a statement this week that Breitbart isn't "aligned with [its] values as a company."

See which brands have taken a stand against Breitbart

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Companies who have dropped Breitbart
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Companies who have dropped Breitbart

AAA Socal

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AAAS

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Avvo

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Nordisk

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Vanguard

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Warby Parker

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Harry Rosen

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El Torito

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Workable

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Xero

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Post Schweiz 

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Aqua Carpatica 

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MVMT Watches 

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Modcloth

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MM Lafleur

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MOZ

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SOFi

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Kellogg's 

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Paperless Post 

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Saddleback Bags 

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Earthlink

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San Diego Zoo

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"We learned from consumers that ads were placed on Breitbart.com and decided to discontinue advertising there," a spokesperson said.

That pronouncement caused particular consternation from Breitbart, which breathlessly denounced the cereal maker "un-American" and called for a boycott of its products in a post on Wednesday. As of that afternoon, the hashtag #DumpKelloggs had climbed its way into the top Twitter trends in the United States.

Mashable contacted many of the other brands named by the campaign to confirm the removal and will update this post once they respond.

The exodus follows last week's news that AppNexus, one of the biggest advertising platforms on the web, has banned Breitbart from its ad service for alleged hate speech.

The man behind the campaign, who declined to be named for fear of harassment, said he started the effort around two weeks ago with the intent of boycotting advertisers that appeared on Breitbart.

But he quickly found that because of the way third-party networks and automated ad exchanges work, many of these companies had no idea their ads were on the site. The campaign then became more about notifying the marketers of the placements.

He says the impetus went beyond left and right politics; it's about condemning content that is blatantly hateful or has the potential to incite violence or harassment.

RELATED: See Steve Bannon, founding member of Breitbart

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Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist for US President-elect Donald Trump, talks on the phone outside Trump Tower in New York on December 9, 2016.

(DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) and senior counselor Steve Bannon (L) hold meetings at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon is pictured backstage during a campaign event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin U.S. November 1, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon (R) is pictured talking to a reporter after a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. October 29, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegr's)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon is pictured backstage during a campaign event in Warren, Michigan U.S. October 31, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Steve Bannon, Trevor Drinkwater and Jason Netter attend the 'Sweetwater' Premiere during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2013 in Park City, Utah.

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Steve Bannon attends the 'Sweetwater' Premiere during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2013 in Park City, Utah.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon holds a campaign rally the Reno-Sparks Convention Center November 5, 2016 in Reno, Nevada. With less than a week before Election Day in the United States, Trump and his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, are campaigning in key battleground states that each must win to take the White House.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon (C) listens to Trump speak during his final campaign rally on Election Day in the Devos Place November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Trump's marathon last day of campaigning stretched past midnight and into Election Day.

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Steve Bannon heads to his car as US President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President elect Governor Mike Pence visit the Carrier air conditioning and heating company in Indianapolis, Indiana on December 1, 2016.

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Steve Bannon gets off the plane with US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky, for the start of the 'USA Thank You Tour' at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016.

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Steve Bannon, chief strategist for Donal Trump, leaves after the motorcade of US President-elect arrived at Trump Tower on December 10, 2016 in New York.

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Steve Bannon, (L) chief strategist for Donal Trump, exits Trump Tower on December 13, 2016 in New York.

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon is pictured backstage during a campaign event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin U.S. November 1, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Steve Bannon, senior counselor to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, arrives to attend meetings between Trump and business leaders at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

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Shannon Coulter, an activist who maintains a widely cited list of companies that do business with Trump brands called #GrabYourWallet, also helped promote the effort among her follower base.

A few advertisers have announced their participation on Twitter.

Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow called Kellogg's decision an "act of discrimination and intense prejudice" in a vitriolic statement posted to the site.

"They insult our incredibly diverse staff and spit in the face of our 45,000,000 highly engaged, highly perceptive, highly loyal readers, many of whom are Kellogg's customers," Marlow said.

However, some have noted the campaign's resemblance to a similar effort Breitbart co-signed against now-defunct Gawker after the site insulted the so-called #GamerGate movement.

Caught unaware

The lack of awareness among brands speaks to a broader problem with programatic ads — those placed automatically by software — in general. That is, digital advertisers oftentimes don't have much control over the sites where their ads might surface. Even specified blacklists of sites to avoid don't always work, as Digidaynotes.

While big purveyors of this sort of advertising, like Google and AppNexus, maintain quality standards that exclude things like pornography, gambling, piracy and hate speech, controversial sites or content that clashes with brand values are another matter.

Google's AdSense ad network has declined to comment when asked if it plans to bar Breitbart from the service.

This blindspot may become more prominent as media attention turns to the host of fake new, hate speech and propaganda sites that enjoy floods of traffic from online platforms.

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