It’s always odd to come back to the blog after an absence, even if it’s only less than a week and due to a grant deadline yesterday. Sometimes, not much has happened. Sometimes, a whole lot of stuff has happened. This time around, something very amusing happened during my absence. Facebook has kicked Mike Adams and his NaturalNews conspiracy quack empire off of its platform. This happened on Sunday, as reported in The Daily Beast. It’s an easy target, but sometimes easy targets must be hit. It’s also a good way for me to ease myself back into blogging after having spent the last several days in chaos with the last stages of submitting a grant, not to mention to take another opportunity to remind you that, for conspiracy alternative medicine sites like NaturalNews, it’s always all about the grift, and Mike Adams is a grifter par excellence, in my not-so-humble opinion.
So why did Facebook finally act? It’s not as though NaturalNews didn’t promote conspiracy mongering and hate speech every bit as much as other groups and organizations previously kicked off of Facebook and Instagram, such as Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Alex Jones (InfoWars) and Paul Joseph Watson (Prison Planet). Yet, for some reason, it persisted for months after the rest were unceremoniously given the boot. Well, according to The Daily Beast:
Facebook on Sunday removed the page for Natural News, a far-right conspiracy outlet that had nearly 3 million followers. The page violated Facebook’s policy against spam, the social media company told The Daily Beast on Monday. Natural News’ founder Mike Adams wrote on fellow-right wing conspiracy site Infowars that his site was “permanently banned” from posting. He told the Gateway Pundit, another far-right site, that the apparent ban is evidence of a conspiracy against his website.
So it wasn’t the history of quackery, conspiracy theories, fake news, and threats against scientists that finally did it for Facebook. It was, apparently, Adams’ spam. How consistent with Mike Adams’ history of grift! According to Ars Technica:
In an email to Ars, a spokesperson for Facebook confirmed the removal and said only that it was over “violating our policies against spam.” Under those policies, Facebook “do[es] not allow people to use misleading or inaccurate information to collect likes, followers, or shares.” More specifically, it prohibits sites that “encourage likes, shares, or clicks under false pretenses,” and those that “artificially increase distribution for financial gain,” among other things.
I must admit that, if violation of its spam policies really was why Facebook finally acted, I was shocked that it took Facebook so long to recognize them. It’s not as though Adams doesn’t have a very long history of spamming and black hat SEO activities in service of his grift. Forget the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, when it comes to wretched hives of scum and quackery on the Internet, NaturalNews is the wretchedest, scummiest, and quackiest—and the griftiest (I know that’s not a word; so I made it up). Not surprisingly, Adams got his start (at least as far as I can tell from my reading) selling Y2K scams back in 1999. After Y2K came and went with minimal fuss, Adams quickly moved on as though nothing had happened (mainly because nothing did) to found Arial Software, a company reportedly dedicated to, in essence, spam and helping spammers get around increasingly sophisticated spam filters. He also founded NewsTarget.com, which later became Natural News, with NewsTarget.com remaining as an affiliated sister site. However, it is Natural News that has become the “jewel in the crown” of Mike Adams’ online empire, built up using dubious marketing and black hat SEO techniques, such as server farms:
In 2006, Mike set up hundreds of different domain names (Internet sites) providing thousands of web links back to Natural News. It reflects a practice that is used by spammers and so-called ‘viral’ marketers that is meant to artificially improve a site’s listing position in search engine results. Internet search engines frequently judge the popularity of web sites by the number of other web sites that link to them. By creating lots of web sites with hundreds of links back to Natural News, Adams propelled his site to the top of the list in search engine results. It is a method which cheats the system, so that one’s own site will be found more often on the Internet, in place of sites having better and more appropriate content. Such shenanigans have historically made it difficult for search engines to be effective in finding the best information. Eventually, search engine engineers began instituting counter-measures against this shady practice, and enacted punitive measures to lower the list positions for unethical web sites, such as Natural News. As a result of these search engine changes, the overwhelming majority of Adams’ early web sites have now been shut down. Adams presently owns only a tiny fraction of the domains that he once did. Nonetheless, during a period of approximately five years, Natural News was able to artificially boost its Internet popularity through this unscrupulous marketing practice.
Indeed, that was the first time that Adams got into trouble with Google, but it wasn’t the last. Two years ago, Google briefly delisted NaturalNews.com, meaning that it was completely removed from all Google search results for violating Google’s webmaster guidelines. Specifically, it appeared that he was using “sneaky redirects” in order to pull a bait-and-switch. For those not hip to SEO terms, a sneaky redirect means that when you search for something using a mobile device on Google and Natural News comes up in the search results, what appears in the search results is not what the user gets when he clicks on the link to Natural News. In addition, as explained here, NaturalNews set up a blogging platform that was poorly policed and allowed writers to insert their own ads and code, including a lot of spammy code, with many users dropping in affiliate links, unnatural links, and completely off topic posts, as well as, yes, those sneaky mobile redirects.
So imagine my surprise that apparently Adams was pulling the same sort of spammy shenanigans on Facebook. Of course, the cynical side of me can’t help but think that, basically, Facebook didn’t much care about the content that Adams posted to Facebook. It only cared about the spam. Either way, Adams is gone, booted from Facebook.
Of course, Adams can’t ever suffer the consequences of his actions without going, well, full Mike Adams. For instance, he did it after his brief delisting by Google, which was reversed as soon as Adams fixed the issues for which Google had delisted him. And he did it this time with an utterly bonkers, in a way that only Mike Adams can be uttery bonkers, rant entitled Facebook bans Natural News; Health Ranger responds with message for humanity. It is truly epic:
In response to a coordinated, heavily-funded smear campaign against Natural News and myself, the Health Ranger, Facebook has now permanently banned Natural News from posting content. The channel name that has been banned is Facebook.com/healthranger, which was our primary channel reaching over 2.5 million people. This is on top of the permanent bans of Natural News content from Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google News, Apple and other techno-fascists that now represent the greatest threat to human freedom the world has ever seen. The techno-fascists, including Wikipedia, have decided that no speech that questions any official narrative will be allowed on any platform. Anyone who questions the safety of toxic vaccines, 5G cell towers, geoengineering, chemotherapy or glyphosate weed killer chemicals is now maliciously attacked, smeared and de-platformed. You’re not even allowed now to talk about nutrition, anti-cancer foods or nutritional supplements without being labeled a “vitamin” website accused of pushing fake cures. (That’s right: The left-wing authoritarian tyrants are now anti-nutrition on top of everything else.) Every website or individual who expresses any view of dissent against the corrupt scientific establishment is immediately labeled “fake news,” even as the left-wing media routinely pushed total fabrications about President Trump and anyone who supports Trump. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the tech giants and their CEOs are truly enemies of humanity.
Included with the article was an image lining up pictures of tech leaders, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook, under pictures of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong. Now, I have my issues with the various tech giants, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, but “enemies of humanity”? Tyrants on par with Hitler, Mussolini, and Mao? I don’t think so. Adams even made a video, which needs to be watched to be experienced:
Well, maybe not the whole thing. it’s over 50 minutes long, and no one with an ounce of critical thinking skills, sanity, and scientific knowledge can stand that much Mike Adams. (At least I can’t; I gave up around 20 minutes in.) I will express amusement that, when I watched the video, it played an ad for non-GMO vitamin C supplements. Here’s a hint, Mike: vitamin C has always been non-GMO. The hyperbole is epic. Indeed, three days before Facebook banned NaturalNews, Adams was taking advantage of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion with another rant entitled It’s time for America to declare “D-Day” against the evil tech monopolists and their war against human rights:
On June 6, 1944, courageous American soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy to save civilization from the rise of fascism and tyranny. Seventy-five years later, humanity is once again suffering under the brutal oppression and tyranny of the techno-fascists, with Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Wikipedia and other techno-fascists openly engaged in crimes against humanity and the suppression of basic human rights like the freedom to speak. It is time that America launched a new “D-Day” military operation to overtake and dismantle the techno-fascists that now burn far more books than Adolf Hitler ever could have imagined. The arrogance and criminality of people like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey exceeds the threat to humanity that was once wielded by the Third Reich. While the Nazi regime murdered six million Jews and caused untold human suffering across Europe, Russia and even parts of Africa and the Middle East, the techno-fascist regime that now dominates the internet threatens all humans everywhere on the planet through malicious assaults on human rights that include suppression of speech, economic sabotage, the promotion of fake news journo-terrorism, the organized smearing of patriots and Christians, and even the promotion of the attempted political coup against the United States of America.
It’s really something to see. In the post above and in his video, Adams literally (and I do mean literally) calls on President Trump to unleash the military against the “fascism” of the tech giants to occupy and dismantle them. (I kid you not. That’s what he said. Of course, Adams also conflates left wing politics and fascism in a manner reminiscent of the pseudohistory of Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism, but, compared to the utter batshit nuttiness of everything else, that seems almost quaint in its obvious twisting of history and politics.) In any event, Adams, of course, is either lying or oblivious to the constitution. After all, the First Amendment only states that the government cannot abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press. It doesn’t require private entities to host speech they don’t like. Certainly, calling on President Trump to send in the military police and/or the military to literally occupy the offices of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, and other tech giants in order to dismantle them, all because you don’t like their policies regarding what content they will and will not host on their platforms is a lot closer to fascism than Facebook banning Mike Adams.
Adams is also now claiming that it wasn’t spam that got him banned from Facebook, but rather off-platform activity:
Just days after being banned and deleted by Facebook, Natural News has now learned that Facebook banned Natural News because of an opinion article that Natural News never posted to Facebook. The article in question — “LGBT progressivism horrors” — warned against children being physically and chemically disfigured by parents pushing an LGBT indoctrination agenda onto their own children. Facebook now says the existence of this article is the reason Natural News was de-platformed from Facebook. This means Facebook is banning channels for “off-platform” content. It’s also an admission that Natural News did nothing to violate any community guidelines or terms of service with Facebook. Quite the opposite, in fact: The Natural News social media team followed a strict procedure of self-censorship all through 2019, meaning no articles about LGBT topics were posted to the Natural News channel on Facebook.
Actually, the full title of the article, published May 24, 2019, was LGBT progressivism horrors: Parents to start physically maiming their own babies to slice off all “gender” organs in the name of progressivism and “equality.” It’s a truly histrionic, over-the-top article full of transphobia and misrepresentation of gender science that has to be read to be believed.
I can’t help but remind everyone, though, that at the bottom of these conspiracy sites like Natural News, above all, it’s all about the grift. Indeed, the day before Facebook announced that NaturalNews was banned from its platform, The Daily Beast published an excellent report by Kelly Weill, The New Infowars Is a Vitamin Site Predicting the Apocalypse: Natural News went from selling cheesy kale chips to peddling far-right prophecies, racking up millions of Facebook followers along the way. Weill notes:
You might never have clicked on a Natural News article, but you’ve probably felt its influence. The site is one of the largest brokers of far-right conspiracy theories, including disinformation about vaccines. Natural News has spent the past 10 years moving from relatively innocent claims about the benefits of herbal remedies, to full-blown culture war, with a side business of selling survivalist gear.
All of this is true, although I would definitely quibble over the part about “relatively innocent claims.” Mike Adams has never been innocent in his claims, and he’s been publishing what I consider to be pseudoscience, quackery, conspiracy theories, and character assassination for at least a decade. To give you an idea of what sort of man he is, one of his favorite “go-to” moves involves celebrities who die of cancer after using conventional therapy, such when former White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush Tony Snow died of metastatic colon cancer, when Farrah Fawcett died of anal cancer, Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer (apparently as payback for an interview Swayze gave before his death telling people to avoid quacks), and Steve Jobs, among many others. Basically, he blames chemotherapy, surgery, and other conventional therapy for having “killed,” them, and then, with an air of faux sorrow, laments how they could have lived if only they had embraced “natural healing.” Variations on this theme include, for instance, lamenting how Christina Applegate had been “maimed” unnecessarily when she underwent bilateral mastectomy for her breast cancer and to blame Beau Biden’s death from brain cancer on glyphosate and chemotherapy. Last year, he did the same thing after David Bowie died of liver cancer and Alan Rickman died of pancreatic cancer. Heck, just yesterday, Adams leapt at the death of actor Bill Paxton after his death due to complications from surgery. It’s unclear exactly what the circumstances of Paxton’s death were, but last year his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
In any case, that’s how Mike Adams rolls. Any celebrity who dying while undergoing conventional therapy for cancer (or any other disease) has long been fodder for his claims that medicine “killed” him and that “natural therapy” would have saved him. This has been his signature move for at least 11 years (the first time I noticed it) and likely far longer. Adams has long presided over a “natural health” online publishing empire that racks in considerable green by publishing articles laced with quackery, antivaccine pseudoscience, character assassination, and thuggery, both legal and getting a bit too close to inciting violence, such as the time he published the “Monsanto collaborators list,” likening them to Nazi collaborators and all but calling for violence against them. It’s just that almost no one in the media noticed Mike Adams’ conspiracy mongering until it fused with the alt right and Mike Adams’ support for Donald Trump beginning in 2015.
Weill also notes, correctly:
Adams’ tech experience made him an expert in early-internet virality, a skill that would carry over into Natural News, which uses clever search-engine shortcuts to propel it to the top of searches. He lit up inboxes with scaremongering Y2K emails. “Adams’ ‘Thirty-Nine Unanswered Questions About Y2K’ have arrived in my mailbox about 50 times today,” one technology columnist wrote in December 1999 before challenging all 39 claims. Those emails led many readers to Y2K Newswire, where he sold $99 subscriptions for “access to a wealth of information—much of it too sensitive for public release.” At one point before 2000, he claimed to have “a subscriber base of over 50,000 people,” which would have made him a small fortune from subscriptions alone. Then there were the products.
Because it’s always about the products, be they “Y2K survival kits” or overpriced gold in the late 1990s, supplements or “parasite cleanses” in the early 2000s and beyond, or breathing masks for children and a $160 electromagnetic field reader now. Mike Adams has always been about the grift, which is why losing his Facebook presence will hurt:
And like the anti-vaccination movement, Natural News thrives on Facebook. A 2015 ThinkProgress article placed Natural News at nearly 1.5 million Facebook likes. By May 2019, the page had more than 2.9 million. In addition to anti-vax panic, those fans get a steady stream of Adams’ ongoing culture war. Once a doomsday prophet about imminent “martial law,” Adams now authors articles calling on President Donald Trump to “invoke the Insurrection Act to save America from lawless ‘enemies within’ who threaten our constitutional republic,” one recent headline read. Those “enemies” who would be subject to arrest under Adams’ vision included “corrupt liberal judges who defy the President’s orders to secure the U.S. border,” “journo-terrorists who pretend to be journalists but are actually anti-American traitors,” tech CEOs, anti-fascists, figures in the imaginary “deep state,” and liberal university professors.
And ads. Lots of ads for everything for supplements, survivalist gear, organic super oils, glyphosate-tested organic hazelnuts (because everything’s glyphosate-tested), and the Bioscarf, the “first functional and fashionable air filtration garment on the market.”
Because it’s all about the grift. Whatever the reason Facebook banned Mike Adams, it’s going to hurt not so much because of the content that he will no longer be able to post there (although that will hurt), but rather because it’s such a profit center for him and conspiracy quacks like him.