Firms, pay heed to where your ads show up

Regarding the Feb. 13 story “Weaponized buying as shoppers weigh boycott calls over firms’ political stands,” I ventured into the minefield known as Breitbart News.

Although the article described Breitbart as a “conservative news and opinion website formerly run by Trump’s chief strategist,” it’s largely viewed as a gateway site for the “alt-right” and a sort of primer for would-be white supremacists. It has earned the moniker of “hate site,” for what many recognize as its incendiary mix of racism, xenophobia and more, all topped off with the burning fuse of “fake news.”

When I got to the site for my look-see I was a little surprised to find a SoftBank ad aimed at the men and women of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Japan. If I were a marketing exec at SoftBank, a white nationalist platform might not be the first place I would think of plastering an ad targeting an institution whose members have paid the ultimate price to defeat some of the same ideals held aloft by the alt-right. Maybe SoftBank knows something I don’t know.

It’s more likely they have no idea that their ads are even on the Breitbart site. While we may live in an era where “the simple act of buying a drink or shoes has never seemed so political,” we also live in an era where machines do a lot of our thinking for us and the simple fact is that deciding what ads go where on the internet is more a robotic choice than human.

Since November a Twitter account called Sleeping Giants has called on the aid of people to help awaken companies like SoftBank to the fact that their ads are fueling Breitbart’s brand of hate. After getting wake-up calls, over a thousand companies have essentially pulled their ads from the Breitbart site.

The living, breathing humans at the heart of SoftBank proclaim that the company “is working to build a healthy internet society.” They could be sincere or it could just be lip service. There’s one sure way to find out. Follow the steps laid out by Sleeping Giants on Twitter and show SoftBank where its spending is going. Then urge it to take that money away from Breitbart and instead put it where its mouth is.

J.T. CASSIDY
YOKOHAMA

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.