Meet Nandini Jammi, the woman working to stop the far-right creator money machine

Nandini Jammi, co-founder of Check My Ads, a nonprofit advertising watchdog organization that works to cut off the revenue streams of large, far-right content creators and publishers. MUST CREDIT: Micah E. Wood for The Washington Post

When Elon Musk reinstated far-right influencer and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s account on X on Sunday night, digital marketer and activist Nandini Jammi sprang into action. She posted on X to alert her followers to his return and began monitoring his posts.

“We’ve been working on alerting advertisers to the two platforms where Alex Jones primarily lives, Rumble and Twitter,” Jammi said, using X’s former name. “Alex Jones has proven to be a dangerous conspiracy theorist, and Twitter is reopening a channel for him to earn ad revenue.”

Jammi was part of the effort that successfully de-platformed Jones in 2018 and led to his banning from major social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify. She waged a widespread social media campaign imploring the public to contact the platforms directly and pressure them to remove him. That same year, Jammi helped get Jones removed from PayPal by writing directly to the company, asking it to review his use of the platform. Shortly after, he was banned there too.

Far-right content creators such as Jones, who commingle conservative commentary and conspiracy theories with advertising, have become common on social media. While traditional news outlets have been slow to adopt the personality-driven model that now dominates the internet, conservative media have embraced it for years, delivering news with a partisan slant that generates outrage, attracts large audiences – and turns a profit.

Jones did not reply to a request for comment.

This model helps explain why random people and events – a first-grade teacher in Milwaukee, a county election worker in Georgia, Bud Light’s advertising with an LGBTQ+ influencer – regularly rocket to online prominence.

“Any kind of news event that can be politicized to create outrage is an opportunity for right-wing influencers to make money,” said Emily Dreyfuss, director of the Shorenstein Center News Lab at Harvard University, a research center that focuses on the impact of social media. “They scour the news for something they think will upset their audience, then they make a very big deal out of it in order to make it go viral and lead to more content, all of which enriches them.”

Jared Holt, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that researches online harms, said this practice transforms the news, allowing influencers to “not only position themselves as a source of info to their audience but also a source of entertainment.”

This model appeals to advertisers who either agree with the political agenda or simply want their ads in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But other advertisers are unaware of the content they’re sponsoring because of the complex nature of online advertising, where automated systems often place ads directly on websites according to availability without any human contact between the site and the advertiser. This is known as programmatic advertising.

The online advertising ecosystem has created an opening for activists looking to disrupt this cycle.

In 2016, Jammi noticed that advertising on the conservative news site Breitbart relied heavily on programmatic advertising. So she began alerting advertisers when their marketing appeared next to hate speech and disinformation. Jammi soon partnered with Matt Rivitz, a copywriter and marketer in San Francisco who was doing similar work, to launch Sleeping Giants, an activist organization dedicated to demonetizing right-wing extremist news sites.

In 2020, she decided to lean into these efforts full time. Working with Claire Atkin, a fellow marketer who was worried about how online advertising enabled disinformation, Jammi co-founded Check My Ads, a nonprofit focused on accountability in ad tech. She also has become an influencer herself, building audiences on Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn, where she catalogues her demonetization campaigns.

Far-right influencers have become incredibly adept at manipulating news cycles for audience growth and profit, people who study the internet say.

“What happens is these influencers find whatever’s hot in the news, whatever’s garnering a lot of attention, and they manipulate it to their agenda so they can monetize the results to their followers,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, an Alabama-based nonprofit that seeks to counter extremism.

Nandini Jammi, co-founder of Check My Ads. “It’s so important to focus on their revenue streams because it hits at the heart of their business model,” Jammi said. “These bad actors have made a business out of publishing increasingly extreme and hateful content because it makes them money.” MUST CREDIT: Micah E. Wood for The Washington Post

Traditional media often play a key role in this cycle by amplifying these campaigns, Holt said. “When [these outrage cycles] get big enough, national media and big newsrooms look at that snowball, and there’s a tendency to report on it as if that represents a sincere belief of however many hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans, rather than a media pile-on, which is what it really is.”

Jammi uses social media to draw attention to advertisers whose marketing appears on sites controlled by far-right creators. She also files complaints with industry accountability boards, including the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an organization that targets fraudulent and criminal digital advertising and whose membership includes Facebook, Google and other major brands.

In September, she filed a complaint against X, arguing that TAG should not have renewed X’s certification, which affirms that the platform has taken steps to ensure that advertising does not appear next to extremist or abusive material.

While X maintains its TAG certification, Jammi has found success on other fronts. In 2021, she worked to get home security company SimpliSafe to stop advertising on social channels belonging to Andy Ngo, a far-right content creator known for spreading disinformation surrounding progressive demonstrations such as Black Lives Matter protests. And she persuaded SoundCloud, an audio platform, and Mailchimp, a newsletter service, to demonetize podcaster Stefan Molyneux, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a libertarian who “amplifies ‘scientific racism,’ eugenics and white supremacism.”

Jammi said she has successfully persuaded advertisers to pull marketing dollars from former Fox News celebrities Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck and Dan Bongino; Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk; and YouTuber Tim Pool. And because the right-wing ecosystem is so interconnected – creators collaborate on videos and podcasts and boost each other’s news coverage – cutting off advertising to one influencer can have a ripple effect, she said.

This work has made Jammi a villain on the right, where Bongino has derided her as “a Soros-backed cancel-culture activist.” (Jammi does not receive funding from George Soros).

The far-right influencers Jammi seeks to dismantle often combine pop culture with more serious topics, which leads smaller content creators into reacting to or covering the stories they’re promoting, which amplifies the reach of these campaigns, Holt said.

“A lot of material they put out there,” Holt said, “ends up regurgitated by smaller voices that might not have big nefarious intentions, but through the incentives of social media or in their best efforts to cover what they think is current online pop culture news, they end up giving these folks an even larger platform than they’d be able to build themselves.”

“It’s so important to focus on their revenue streams because it hits at the heart of their business model,” Jammi said. “These bad actors have made a business out of publishing increasingly extreme and hateful content because it makes them money. With that money, they’re able to expand their operations. They can hire new influencers and writers to scale the production of content around these narratives that they’ve built.”

Ariba Jahan, vice president of product experience and innovation at the Ad Council, applauded Jammi’s efforts. The Ad Council, a nonprofit founded in 1942 to address social issues through creative marketing, has helped organize public service campaigns to promote the American Red Cross, the Salk polio vaccine, the Peace Corps and anti-littering efforts.

Jammi “comes with evidence, she comes with all the receipts, she brings the community with her, she raises awareness so everyone is aware of what’s happening and why,” Jahan said. “She is relentless in the most industry-catalyzing way possible.”

In addition to defunding disinformation and hate speech, Jammi hopes to educate people about the complicated revenue models that muddy accountability for the tenor of the influencer ecosystem.

“What sets me and my organization apart,” she said, “is that we deeply understand how these business models work. And we have the time and patience to dismantle them, one piece at a time.”



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