AT&T CEO: Employees Need to Stop Blocking Conservatives from Advertising Platforms

According to a press release issued by the Free Enterprise Project (FEP) on Friday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson expressed dismay that his company was censoring certain conservative voices and preventing them from being able to advertise on some of the tech giant’s platforms, and said that such a practice needs to stop.

His reaction, the statement said, was part of a private discussion with Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., following the annual AT&T shareholder meeting in Dallas, Texas, traditionally held on the last Friday of April. According to the release, Danhof and Stephenson specifically discussed AT&T’s 2018 acquisition of AppNexus, a major online advertising platform.

“I noted that under its old CEO Brian O’Kelley, AppNexus had a practice of banning certain websites from its platform for political reasons. Stephenson indicated that AT&T had stopped this practice when it took over the platform. When I informed him that AT&T was in fact continuing O’Kelley’s practice of censoring certain websites from its ad platforms, he expressed dismay,” Danhof said. “Stephenson told me that the practice needs to stop and I agree. Now we are calling on the employees in AT&T’s digital advertising department to follow through on their boss’s calls to end this politically-motivated censorship.”

O’Kelley and his AppNexus team, already known to be incredibly liberal, responded to the election of President Donald Trump by banning certain conservative voices from their platform outright.

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Less than three weeks after President Trump’s election, O’Kelley blacklisted certain conservative voices (many of whom are direct competitors and frequent critics of AT&T-owned CNN) from the AppNexus platform – and publicly encouraged other ad networks to do the same. The company claimed the decision was because, in its opinion, the targeted conservative speech equaled hate speech — a false claim used by many tech giants to silence conservative voices.

However, when asked, Josh Zeitz, AppNexus’ VP of corporate communications, couldn’t point to a single other instance in which the ad platform had banned other viewpoints as hate speech.

“I take Stephenson at his word when he said he was unaware that AT&T was continuing to ban conservative content. However, now that he is aware, and has expressed his displeasure with this practice, I expect him to move decisively to put an end to AT&T’s role as the speech police,” added Danhof.

As we and many others have reported, conservative web sites like this one have endured an onslaught of censorship by tech companies apparently upset with the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

While efforts like the Stop Social Media Censorship Act seek to address political and religious censorship by companies like Facebook and Twitter, they do not address actions taken by advertisers seeking to hurt or destroy conservative sites financially.

Today’s meeting for AT&T marks the tenth time FEP has participated in a shareholder meeting in 2019.


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Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for Examiner.com from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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