BuzzFeed’s political advertising arm partnered with Democrat candidates and anti-Trump super PACs to provide data for voter targeting during the 2016 presidential race, but canceled a contract with the Republican National Committee worth over $1 million in opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy, saying it would be “hazardous to our health.”
Several Democrat lawmakers argued that the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook collected data to target voters benefitted the Republican candidate, but apparently had no such concerns about the same happening on the Democrat side.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that “former BuzzFeed Vice President Rena Shapiro, who led the website’s native political advertising team during the 2016 election, described candidly in a pair of unearthed interviews how she partnered closely with political groups to create ads that harnessed the data BuzzFeed collects on its audience of over 650 million people.”
She explained they use this data to solve their “ultimate need, which is to get elected, to get their message out there, or to canvas people together to create impact around a cause.”
“This is a data monster that we’re working with here at BuzzFeed, and it’s awesome to harness that power to everyone’s advantage in the political space,” Shapiro said in December 2016 on “Digital Politics with Karen Pagoda.”
Buzzfeed canceled a $1.3 million advertising it had with the Republican National Committee in June 2016, citing disagreements with then-candidate Donald Trump’s “offensive statements.”
“We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company,” Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti wrote to his employees. “However, in some cases, we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”
DCNF identified 36 political advertising posts placed on Buzzfeed’s website in 2016, including from groups such as Bernie Sanders’ political campaign, and the Our Principals, NextGen and Women Vote PACs.
The posts created by Buzzfeed’s advertising team were made to appear like other news and editorial content on the site.
While Democrats, including former Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, blamed Facebook for helping sway the electorate to vote for Trump, the social media giant offered its advertising services to both the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign, while Buzzfeed did not.
“BuzzFeed working hand-in-hand with anti-Trump groups to disburse political ads on its own platform appear similar to how Facebook embedded staffers in the Trump campaign to help the campaign better use Facebook to target customers,” according to TheDCNF.
“But unlike BuzzFeed, Facebook did not discriminate between Trump and Clinton,” the news outlet continued. “The only reason Facebook didn’t embed its employees in the Clinton campaign was because the Clinton campaign turned down Facebook when it offered the service.”
“Facebook’s defense was, ‘we offered the same services to all candidates, it’s just that not all candidates took advantage,’” observed Brendan Fischer, the director of Federal Election Commission reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
“Here, you don’t have that defense,” Fischer continued. “It’s clear that BuzzFeed offered their services to some candidates but not others.”
Buzzfeed’s news division published the infamous, unverified Trump Russia “dossier” in January 2017 weeks before the new president took office.
The editorial decision prompted Trump to label Buzzfeed and CNN — which referenced and linked to the story — “fake news.”
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