Politics & Government

Beside Breitbart content isn’t place for our recruiting ads, Washington State Patrol says

A post on a Seattle Reddit community about the Washington State Patrol advertisement appearing alongside Breitbart content.
A post on a Seattle Reddit community about the Washington State Patrol advertisement appearing alongside Breitbart content. Screengrab

Officials with the Washington State Patrol have blocked recruiting advertisements from appearing alongside material from the conservative website Breitbart.

State Patrol spokesman Kyle Moore said the agency was notified Monday that its ads were showing up with Breitbart material on Facebook. The patrol’s ad agency then blocked Breitbart later that evening.

The change came after a Reddit user criticized the State Patrol on Monday for the ads, which the site’s user said were on the Breitbart website.

Asked why the patrol does not want to advertise next to Breitbart, Moore said, “Not all the content on Breitbart might fit what we’re looking for” when trying to recruit officers who embody principles of “service with humility and serving our community.”

Breitbart is managed by Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to President Donald Trump. The site has garnered controversy for being a “platform” for the so-called “alt-right,” according to Bannon. The alt-right is a political group that espouses white nationalist, anti-Semitic views.

Some at the website have denied being an alt-right platform.

Moore said the State Patrol has ads on Facebook that are placed with an algorithm partly based on people’s interests, so they weren’t buying ads specifically with Breitbart.

The patrol wasn’t targeting Brietbart users either, but some users might have shown interest on Facebook in law enforcement or police-related topics, Moore said.

The ads shouldn’t appear on individual websites, said Moore, who was unsure why the Reddit post appeared to show an advertisement on Breitbart’s site.

The patrol is not the first to attempt to keep its advertising off Breitbart. The New York Times has reported that hundreds of companies have tried to stop their advertisements from appearing on the website. Sometimes ads still slip through, the Times reported.

Moore said that could happen with the patrol’s ads as well.

He said the agency’s ad firm “indicated that because we’re following the user and not the content there’s no 100 percent guarantee” ads won’t show up next to Breitbart material.

If they do, Moore said it is “unintentional.”

The patrol’s move drew opposition from state Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, who called blocking Breitbart a “dangerous path to start down.”

“Once a government starts deciding which speech is appropriate and what speech is not appropriate, you raise a whole specter of potential problems,” he said.

Manweller said he wondered whether left-leaning organizations should be out of bounds to advertise on if conservatives disagree with them.

He also said the patrol’s actions raise the question of whether the state should make a standard advertising policy or whether agencies should decide for themselves which sites they choose not to advertise with.

The patrol’s ad campaign is targeted at recruiting new officers for an agency that has struggled with a shortage of troopers in the past.

Moore said he didn’t know of any other websites the patrol has sought to block in the past.

Moore, asked to elaborate on what Breitbart material doesn’t fit the patrol’s standards, said:

“I don’t know if that’s the content that we would want to be advertised on. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein