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Group aiming to defund disinformation tries to drain Fox News of online advertising

Group aiming to defund disinformation tries to drain Fox News of online advertising

A nonprofit aiming to defund disinformation online that has taken money out of the pockets of several prominent far-right websites now has its sights set on its most formidable target yet: Fox News.

The group, Check My Ads, is hoping the success it has had in stripping advertising dollars from right-wing provocateurs including Steve Bannon, Glenn Beck and Dan Bongino will give it momentum as it attempts to confront a powerful media empire.

On Thursday, the outfit announced a new campaign directed at Fox's website and its popular YouTube channel calling on the public to pressure online ad exchanges to stop doing business with Fox. It comes just as the House committee investigating the Capitol riots kicks off a series of hearings focused on violence that unfolded on Jan. 6.

Former marketer Claire Atkin, who co-founded Check My Ads, argues that Fox "encouraged and supported" the attack on the Capitol.

"Advertisers have said over and over again, 'We don't want to fund violence,' so it's shocking that Fox News is still receiving these ad dollars," she said.

Mikel Ellcessor, the group's chief operating officer, points to Fox News star Tucker Carlson's sympathetic portrayal of the Capitol rioters and Carlson's documentary series "Patriot Purge," which promoted conspiracy theories about Jan. 6, falsely suggesting the violence was instigated by left-wing activists and calling the rioters "political prisoners."

"What happens on Fox News television helps fund all of their digital properties," he said. "You don't get to claim that your hands are free and clean when you put a dollar into the Fox News operation."

In a statement, Fox News dismissed the campaign as an effort at censorship, saying "There's no greater threat to democracy than the effort to silence free speech."

The network said it takes pride in "featuring more dissenting viewpoints on the major issues facing the country than our cable news competitors."

The push by the left-leaning activists comes amid growing calls from online advertising watchers for there to be more transparency and accountability in the complex industry that is digital advertising, an ever-growing segment of the economy in which an estimated $521 billion was spent last year.