BuzzFeed refuses to run RNC ads in favor of Donald Trump

The site pulls out of a deal reportedly worth $1.3M, citing the "tone and substance of his campaign"

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 6, 2016
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The tech world's unhappiness with a potential Donald Trump presidency has been well documented, with many high profile investors and entrepreneurs taking shots at him. The fight took another turn on Monday, as one of the Web's most prominent new media site made a startling declaration against him.

On Monday, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti sent an email to employees informing that his company was ending an agreement, signed in April, with the Republican National Committee to run political advertisements in the Fall.

Specifically, the site is rejecting any ads that promote Donald Trump for President, citing the "tone and substance of his campaign"

"Trump advocates banning Muslims from traveling to the United States, he’s threatened to limit the free press, and made offensive statements toward women, immigrants, descendants of immigrants, and foreign nationals," wrote Peretti.

"The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs."

This means that BuzzFeed is rejecting a deal that, is worth $1.3 million according to Politico, but Peretti frames is as a choice of morals above financial returns. 

"We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company. However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: 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," he said. 

While the site has decided it no longer wants money to promote Trump, that does not mean it will stop writing about him. Both Peretti, as well as BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, made it clear that this decision won't have an effect on the editorial aspect of what is and is not covered.

This is just the latest example of a tech company expressing its displeasure over Donald Trump and his rhetoric. In fact, the Trump campaign has been in a war of words with Silicon Valley since the start of his campaign.

It all started when Trump went after tech companies over H-1B visas, which, the pro-immigration PAC started by Zuckerberg, has been lobbying to increase. Trump accused companies in the tech ecosystem of using these visa to pay workers lower wages, and to take away jobs from qualified Americans. 

He even went so far as to call Marco Rubio (remember him?) "Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator," for his support of H-1Bs. has lobbied Congress to get them raise the cap on the number of H-1B visas. Currently, 65,000 H-1B visas can be granted each year, with an additional 20,000 visas available for people who have obtained a master's degree or higher.

The organization responded to Trump's accusations, saying that "The idea we should radically restrict pathways for highly-skilled immigrants to come and stay here is –again – just wrong."

Plenty of well-known tech personalities have taken shots at Trump, including Keith Rabois, former executive at PayPal and current Partner at Khosla Ventures, who has called Trump an "opportunistic liar," and investor Marc Andreessen, has gotten into Twitter feuds with Trump.

Then there's Zuckerberg, who essentially declared himself to be the anti-Trump after he proposed a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States. Most recently, he implicitly called Trump out at the F8 developer conference in April, after which Facebook employees at the company asked him if they should actually try and stop Trump from becoming President. 

Not everyone in Silicon Valley dislikes Trump, of course; the man has found an ally in former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel, who is going to be a California delegate for Trump in the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The decision by BuzzFeed feels a little different than the typical fight between tech and Trump, though, given that it is a news site and should be objectively reporting about the campaign. It's hard to see how anyone can believe that the site has not taken a side after a decision like this.

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