Is Rappler really desperately in need of cash?

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

THERE it was, in all its obscenity, embedded between the headline and the main story about Rappler calling to task RJ Nieto, one of the co-hosts of the radio program “Karambola” aired on DWIZ, for asking on air presidential spokesman Harry Roque to throw hollow blocks at Rappler reporter Pia Ranada.

I only took notice because a friend of mine called my attention in our group chat, by posting a picture of the offending page.

It was an advertisement about a man promoting his sexual prowess to bored housewives, promising them 13 hours of non-stop sex. The language was obscene and unprintable.

John Nery would not have been pleased at all.

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And when I called Rappler to task for being too conscious of the ethical misconduct of Nieto while not conscious of the ethical implications when it allows such obscene ads to pop up in its site, the yellow apologists descended on me like a horde of barbarians as if on cue.

First, they attacked me for my alleged ignorance and schooled me on their claim that Rappler has no control over these ads, and that they are governed by an algorithm that processes the lifestyle of every reader based on browsing history. And on the basis of this analysis, a specific set of ads unique to the reader are loaded in sites which avail of the Google AdSense facility and which the reader opens and visits.

And second, they shamed me, practically accusing me of being a pervert. Their argument is that since I can see those ads, then it means my browsing history outs me as a porn addict.

Typical of the yellows, these people focused on me, my ignorance, and my alleged perversion, ignoring the conduct of the owner of the site from where the offending ad popped up in my friend’s gadget.

And they have missed one important angle to the story.

It is not true that Rappler has no control over the ads popping up in its site. Prominently appearing in the Google AdSense help facility is a discussion of how to block ads which site owners don’t want to see loaded in their pages. This would include ads from sensitive categories such as religion and politics, and those that refer to sex and sexuality. Thus, Rappler, had it chosen to, could have easily adjusted its account settings to block any offensive ad. Had it done so, then we would not have seen this obscene optics where a man advertising 13 hours of non-stop sex to bored housewives shows up in its newsfeed where Nieto is castigated for asking Harry Roque to throw hollow blocks at Pia Ranada.

And there is probably a good reason why Rappler did not opt to adjust its account settings to block ads from Google AdSense. This stems from the fact that, just like any site that accepts ad placements, Rappler receives a percentage of the revenue that Google earns from these ads. And blocking ads will mean lower revenues.

In fact, prominently highlighted in the primer on blocking ads is a reminder from Google which states: “Keep in mind that blocking any ad will lower your potential earnings, as it reduces competition for your ad space by removing advertiser bids from the auction. We suggest blocking only those ads that you feel are unsuitable for your users.”

Thus, Rappler had an option, which it did not take. It did not consider it prudent to anticipate that sex ads unsuitable to its users would show up in its pages.

Perhaps, Rappler was under the impression that only those that regularly visit porn sites will see these ads anyway. And it would have not minded enabling sex ads to people whose profiles would indicate they probably visit porn, if it meant higher earnings.

This then leads us to ask a critical question. Is Rappler so desperately in need of cash that it will compromise the moral compass it loves to drumbeat? Doesn’t it find problematic the fact that it allows ads containing obscenities to pop up in people’s gadgets or computer screens? Granted that these people would probably visit adult porn sites for their own private entertainment, some of them would still not appreciate their reading of public issues rudely interrupted by sex ads.

And the hypocrisy goes back to the yellow enablers and apologists of Rappler, who were very vocal in criticizing the President for his sex jokes. They were at the forefront in fighting for Leila de Lima being attacked by a misogynistic president and his cohorts in Congress, some of them even propagating the #everywoman hashtag. Recently, they took the presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar to task for uttering sex-laced speech.

And these guardians of morality and of women’s rights make it appear that visiting adult porn sites automatically turns someone into a pervert.

Yet, they did not see the perversion of a public official having an affair with her married driver.

And now, they do not see the perversion of Rappler allowing obscenities to pop up in its site, effectively objectifying women, and profiting from it in the process.

One can even push the argument and entertain the possibility that Rappler may be unwittingly turning itself into an enabler of sex addiction. If sex ads pop up in the gadgets of some readers, who from the account of my bashers are probably hooked to porn, then Rappler which projects an image of being a guardian of morals should have the prudence not to allow its space to feed this addiction.

The fact that Rappler does not block sex-related ads, as evidenced by that incriminating obscene ad, it has seriously undermined its claim to moral ascendancy.

And what is even worse is that it earned money from that ad. This practically turns Rappler into an indirect peddler of sexual services too.

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