The business of hate media

How Google and Facebook make online harassment and disinformation both possible and profitable

Kris Shaffer
Apr 24, 2017 · 7 min read
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Behind the storm: the adtech network

Who funds Daily Stormer? According to the site itself, it is 100% reader-funded (though it does contain ads from sponsors). But that’s not the entire story. When you visit a website, you’re usually not receiving content only from that site. Typically, the site calls in data from around the web — ads, fonts, embedded media, recommended reads, comments, trackers, etc., alongside page content. And for sites that seek to make money, those relationships with third-party sources are key.

The adtech “Death Star”

To get a handle on how concentrated these services are in a small number of providers, here is a graph of this “adtech death star” (to use a term now popular among adtech researchers, such as David Carroll and Jonathan Albright). All 25 sites visited are included as nodes with arrows coming out, pointing towards the adtech domains they called during Bill’s three-page visits.

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Network graph of adtech and other third-party services called while visiting 25 popular websites representing a range of political perspectives.

Halting hate media

Imagine a world where hate sites couldn’t do any of these things…

  • violate mainstream media outlets’ copyright privileges without legal action
  • make money off of ads from Google, Facebook, or other mainstream companies
  • list podcasts in the iTunes database
  • post content to social media
  • have site content appear on Facebook or Twitter via their Open Graph/Twitter Cards services (with pictures, highlighted headlines, etc., all of which boost traffic) … or even at all
  • appear in Google search results

Data for Democracy

Collaborating on data projects to build a stronger society.

Kris Shaffer

Written by

Data Scientist. Computational musicologist. Digital media specialist. Developer. Author. University of Mary Washington, Hybrid Pedagogy.

Data for Democracy

Collaborating on data projects to build a stronger society. Email team@datafordemocracy.org for an invitation.

Kris Shaffer

Written by

Data Scientist. Computational musicologist. Digital media specialist. Developer. Author. University of Mary Washington, Hybrid Pedagogy.

Data for Democracy

Collaborating on data projects to build a stronger society. Email team@datafordemocracy.org for an invitation.

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