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GARM Exposed: House Judiciary Report Says Ad Coalition Likely Broke Law To Silence Conservatives

Last Updated 2 weeks by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

A congressional investigation has uncovered overt political bias in the leadership of an advertising coalition that’s being used to control online speech, according to a House Judiciary Committee report released on Wednesday ahead of a hearing on whether advertisers are violating federal competition laws.

The report on the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, or GARM, accuses the group of attempting to influence what content appears online by starving disfavored content, or even entire platforms, of advertising dollars needed to survive. Internal emails obtained by the committee found that GARM’s leadership strategized how to use the coalition against news outlets, including The Daily Wire, with opposing views from its leadership.

“GARM and its members discussed a strategy of blocking certain news outlets like Fox News, The Daily Wire, and Breitbart News,” the report states, pointing to an email from a top executive associated with the coalition stating that he “hated their ideology and bulls**t.”

One of the lead organizations in the coalition, GroupM, the world’s largest media buying agency, admits in emails that The Daily Wire is “on our Global High Risk exclusion list, categorized as Conspiracy Theories.”

Email from executive at GroupM, the world’s largest ad buyer

Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro will testify in the committee’s hearing on GARM, which will take place later on Wednesday. Last year, Shapiro described GARM as part of “a network of global elites who have created a universal framework full of guidelines and ratings designed to enforce ‘approved’ narratives and punish disapproved ones.”

READ THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE’S FULL REPORT: HOW THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BRANDS SEEK TO CONTROL ONLINE SPEECH

GARM was formed by the World Federation of Advertisers in 2019, and was embraced as a “flagship project” of the World Economic Forum. Its stated goal is to create a “common understanding” in the advertising industry of “what harmful and sensitive content is” as well as “where ads should not appear,” basing it all on the importance of “brand safety” for its members.

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The report exposes the political bias of Rob Rakowitz, GARM’s leader and co-founder, who in one email complains about people “advocating for freedom of speech online,” and about “extreme global interpretation of the US Constitution.” Rakowitz also criticizes the fact that the Constitution was written “by white men exclusively.”

“For an organization reliant on speech and persuasion in advertising, GARM appears to have anti-democratic views of fundamental American freedoms,” the report states, citing Rakowtiz’s emails.

Other entities targeted by GARM include Elon Musk’s Twitter, now X, after it was initially purchased by the tech billionaire. The report states that GARM tried to direct all of its members — corporate giants like Coca-Cola and Unilever who together account for 90% of global advertising dollars — to “stop all paid advertisement” on the platform after Musk purchased it. The report states that GARM “bragged about” the fact that Twitter was “80% below revenue forecasts” after its effort.

READ MORE: BEN SHAPIRO SET TO TESTIFY TO CONGRESS ON ALLEGED COLLUSION AGAINST CONSERVATIVE IN AD INDUSTRY

GARM also worked to pressure Spotify over Joe Rogan’s podcast, the report shows, specifically over the host’s claims that young, healthy people didn’t need a COVID vaccine. Rakowitz, GARM’s leader, admits in private emails that threats like the one it made to Spotify “gets us into hot water by way of anticompetitive and collusive behaviors.”

The committee report concludes that “GARM likely violated federal antitrust laws,” claiming that it found “direct evidence” that it was “demonetizing certain viewpoints to limit consumer choice” and therefore harmed consumers.

“Colluding to suppress voices and views disfavored by the leading marketers at the world’s largest companies and advertising agencies is core to GARM’s founding principles,” the report states.

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In the emails between Rakowitz and the GroupM executives, Joe Barone and John Montgomery, a plan appears to be hatched to closely monitor The Daily Wire in hopes that they find a reason to censor the outlet — it’s a strategy that was used to censor Breitbart, the GroupM executive explains.

“There is an interesting parallel here with Breitbart,” Montgomery wrote in an October 2021 email after he was asked about The Daily Wire. “Before Breitbart crossed the line and started spouting blatant misinformation, we had long discussions about whether we should include them on our exclusion lists. As much as we hated their ideology and bulls**t, we couldn’t really justify blocking them for misguided opinion. We watched them very carefully and it didn’t take long for them to cross the line.”

Emails between GroupM and GARM founder Rob Rakowitz

He then recommends taking the same approach to The Daily Wire. “We should watch them carefully to make sure they don’t stoop below the GARM floor,” Montgomery writes, before being told by his colleague Barone that The Daily Wire was already on GroupM’s “Global High Risk exclusion list.”

Though the emails show Rakowitz discussing plans to censor specific outlets with GroupM, the committee report says he denied doing so in a transcribed interview with congressional investigators.

“When Mr. Rakowitz was asked by the Committee during his transcribed interview whether he discusses with GroupM its list of news outlets that are worthy of monetization, he denied doing so,” the report states. Rakowitz told the committee that he “won’t get into those conversations to keep myself compliant with our competition law policy.”

In addition to Shapiro, the CEO of GroupM, Christian Juhl, will also be a witness, Breitbart reported on Monday.

The report outlines specific instances where GARM members used the coalition to get involved in U.S. elections — in one series of emails in October 2020, an executive for Unilever, which is based in the United Kingdom, tries to convince Facebook to take down a Donald Trump ad it viewed as misinformation. When Facebook explained that it has different standards for political speech, GARM leadership privately seethed.

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“Honestly reprehensible,” Rakowitz wrote in an email to the Unilever executive, in reference to Facebook’s decision not to censor Trump.

The president of Unilever, a consumer goods giant that sits on GARM’s steering committee, will also testify at the hearing.

The message to Facebook, the emails obtained by the committee show, was that GARM wanted it to do more censorship — Rakowitz specifically wrote that the censorship efforts exhibited during COVID “should be the North Star” and urged it to do the same level of content moderation for elections.

“In other words, GARM pushed Facebook for coordinated action around the upcoming elections similar to the actions the platform took during the COVID-19 pandemic to censor speech,” the report states.

The committee report concludes that while any of these companies is free to advertise wherever they please, the collusion facilitated through GARM put it in violation of the law.

“Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court described collusion as “the supreme evil of antitrust.’ Today, this description remains true,” it states. “If collusion among powerful corporations capable of collectively demonetizing, and in effect eliminating, certain views and voices is allowed to continue, the ability of countless American consumers to choose what to read and listen to, or even have their speech or writing reach other Americans, will be destroyed.”

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