BuzzFeed ran microtargeted pro-Clinton political ads during the 2016 election without labeling them as political ads — despite assurances that they would do so — according to a report by the Daily Caller.
According to the report, BuzzFeed ran 32 “native” political ads (ads designed to look like standard articles) on the site in 2016, without disclosing that they were political ads. This is despite the fact that BuzzFeed promised to add disclosures on native political ads when they launched the program.
But the Caller reports that only four native ads out of the 36 they analyzed from 2016 contained proper disclosures.
By failing to disclose native political ads as such, BuzzFeed risks running afoul of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules on native advertising. As the Caller notes, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) also mandates that online political advertisements identify who funded and authorized them.
Sponsored BuzzFeed content from 12 anti-Trump super PACs failed to adequately disclose their funders and authorizers.
According to public comments from former BuzzFeed vice president Rena Shapiro, the site used Facebook-style data harvesting to target users with anti-Trump messages, and closed off their advertising to pro-Trump groups.
But as it turns out, only some in the political space were given the opportunity to partner with BuzzFeed’s viral marketing team to create custom political ads that, according to Shapiro, are “based off of mounds and piles and troves of data and information that we have as far as how people are interacting and engaging with content.”
BuzzFeed raised eyebrows in June 2016 when it announced it had canceled a $1.3 million advertising agreement with the Republican National Committee due to disagreements with then-candidate Donald Trump’s “offensive statements.”
Doing business with any group that supports Trump, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti said after canceling the RNC ad buy, would be “hazardous to our health.”
“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,” Peretti said.
And Shapiro made clear that BuzzFeed’s work with the super PACs meant the website had skin in the game trying to defeat Trump at the ballot box.
“What’s #politicaladsteam @BuzzFeed team been up too?” she tweeted in August 2016. “Helping @prioritiesUSA & @emilyslist get creative to stop Trump.”
According to the report, BuzzFeed representatives denied that the company “leveraged data from its editorial operations to help political groups target key audience groups with political ads” and claimed that “completely walled off from BuzzFeed’s advertising business.”
Read the full report at the Daily Caller.