Oct 24, 2023

8 Things To Know About Rumble, The Toxic Platform That Will Stream The GOP Debate

YouTube wannabe Rumble is more than just a streaming platform — it’s a business that works to monetize content that was banned elsewhere, cutting checks to creators for hate, transphobia, and antisemitism.

And if you’re advertising on YouTube, it might be getting a chunk of your campaign dollars.

Here’s what you need to know about Rumble, the exclusive live-streaming partner for the GOP debates.

1) It’s backed by Peter Thiel and JD Vance

Thanks to wealthy investors, Rumble can focus on growing users without worrying too much about burning cash (or driving away advertisers with unsafe content). One of those investors, Peter Thiel, is a billionaire venture capitalist who has funded an “anti-woke” film festival, a self-proclaimed science publication that questions evolution and climate change, and Project Veritas, known for its deceptively edited undercover videos targeting organizations like NPR, Planned Parenthood, and teachers unions.

Thiel has made statements like he doesn’t “believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” and “I will take QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories any day over a Ministry of Truth” in response to Facebook moderation, making him a great fit for a platform that regularly features QAnon videos on its leaderboard. He’s also sunk millions of dollars into political candidates who denied the 2020 election results.

One of those candidates: JD Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy and now Republican senator for Ohio. Vance is the cofounder of Narya Capital, which has a seat on Rumble’s board. The senator also took a personal stake in the streaming platform, the New York Times reported.

2) It’s a platform where almost anything goes

Rumble likes to call itself a “free speech alternative” to YouTube, where anything goes as long as it’s not against the law. In 2021, after getting an infusion of funding from Thiel, Rumble started branding itself as the “rails” of an “independent infrastructure” designed to be immune to “cancel culture” — or what anyone else would call basic content moderation.

When Russel Brand was accused of sexual assault and grooming and removed from YouTube, Rumble released a statement saying, “We don’t agree with the behavior of many Rumble creators, but we refuse to penalize them for actions that have nothing to do with our platform.”

It’s that belief that sees Rumble leaning into personalities like alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — both of whom have been banned from YouTube and other platforms.

And its toxic content isn’t just contained within U.S. borders. The platform has users around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Poland. France was concerned about it platforming known Russian propaganda channels and demanded the platform block them. Instead of complying, Rumble pulled out of France.

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3) Advertisers are already fleeing

Rumble has one thing protecting it right now: most people haven’t heard of it, so they don’t know how toxic it really is. In fact, just 20% of American adults even know what Rumble is.

But every now and then, Rumble’s content and support for toxic creators is so bad it makes the news — and that’s when advertisers learn just how unsafe the platform is.

When Brand was demonetized on YouTube amid multiple assault and grooming accusations, Rumble made headlines for standing by their partnership with Brand.

In response, big-name brands, including Burger King, ASOS, and HelloFresh, removed their ads from Rumble. StackAdapt, an ad exchange, also removed Rumble from their platform inventory when we pointed out where they were placing ads.

Once advertisers discover the content Rumble hosts, they don’t like what they see.

4) Rumble actively courts toxic creators

Rumble’s CEO Chris Pavlovski seeks out toxic creators for exclusive content partnerships. He publicly approached Joe Rogan with a $100 million offer last year — right as the podcaster was facing backlash for repeatedly using a racial slur. Rogan turned down the offer. Luckily for Rumble, it has no shortage of controversial creators to lean back on.

The site platforms Alex Jones, a man who falsely claimed the Sandy Hook mass shooting was “staged.” White supremacist Nick Fuentes also regularly posts on there. Rumble also signed a contract to give millions to Tate, who has been charged with rape and sex trafficking.

Dan Bongino, who was dropped by Fox News and is known for spreading disinformation about the 2020 election and COVID, is one of Rumble’s largest shareholders. Right-wing nationalist Steve Bannon airs his “War Room” show on the platform, his only choice after being booted off YouTube, Spotify, and Twitter after calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s decapitation.

If a content creator is too toxic for YouTube, there’s a good chance they can find a home on Rumble.

5) Violent conspiracy theories are free to spread on Rumble

Some of the most-watched content on Rumble appears on channels that promote conspiracy theories tied to QAnon, a big-tent lie that suggests former president Donald Trump is waging a secret war against Satan-worshipping pedophiles in elite society.

A Media Matters for America analysis, conducted from Feb. 1 to July 31 of this year, found 37% of all videos on Rumble’s leaderboard of most-liked videos were from channels that “amplify right-wing conspiracy theories, including the QAnon conspiracy theory.”

But QAnon isn’t the only conspiracy Rumble gleefully amplifies.

A channel belonging to so-called “prophet” Julie Green appeared on the leaderboard at least 77 times during the duration of Media Matters’ analysis. Green has claimed God will execute political figures for “their planned pandemic, shortages, inflation, mandates and for stealing an election.” Green also says that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “loves to drink the little children’s blood,” and that President Joe Biden “is no longer alive.”

This is a feature of Rumble, not a bug. The first page of results Rumble serves up when you search “COVID” on the platform are a hodgepodge of conspiracy videos. The top result on Oct 19, 2023 referred to “excessive COVID vaccine injuries” and garnered over 1 million views.

6) Rumble is in app stores despite violating their policies

Samsung, Apple, Google, LG, and Amazon’s app stores all have policies against discrimination or incitement of violence based on race.

Yet they all willingly host the Rumble app, where you can find things like a five-hour livestream from men's rights activist Tommy Sotomayor extolling the merits of white supremacy. Or notorious racist Fuentes making a list of Jewsparticipating in a chat with Elon Musk.

And Media Matters found ads for Rumble’s livestream of the first Republican presidential primary debate on numerous pro-Hitler and neo-Nazi videos.

7) Rumble is part of an effort to build a parallel economy

Rumble’s anti-big-tech business pitch is part of a larger effort to create an economy insulated from what it calls “cancel culture” but what others call “brand safety and content moderation.”

In its effort to remain “uncancellable,” Rumble acquired stake in a payment processor named Parallel Economy, spun up by Jeffrey Wernick and Bongino. Having a way to process transactions insulates Rumble from large tech platforms and their decisions — like, say, when PayPal blocked sites raising funds for Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

Rumble also launched its own cloud services provider in September, to “serve the significant share of the cloud marketthat is disenfranchised by Big Tech’s censorship.”

8) Rumble is heavily monetized by Google Ads

Rumble loves to boast about being free from Big Tech. In reality, the business appears to be heavily dependent on Google Ads, by far its largest advertising partner — and advertisers often have no idea their ads are appearing there. Rumble is part of Google Video Partners, which means Google dumps inventory there that many advertisers assume is going to YouTube.

And it seems to know brands wouldn’t appreciate appearing next to some of Rumble’s content: it has taken steps to minimize the risk of advertisers waking up to screenshots of their ads next to Alex Jones’ face. Its two-tier system for ads monetizes the worst videos through Rumble Ads, its in-house ad platform, while featuring Google Ads on mainstream channels, such as Reuters.

But advertisers don’t have to take that risk. Here’s our guide on how to get out of Google Video Partners and block Rumble from your ad campaigns.

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