If You’re Offended by Trump Ads on Cardinal News, It Could Be Your Own Fault, Not the Fault of Cardinal News … Here’s Why


Straight out of bed Tuesday morning December 10, 2019 about 7:30 a.m., and while producing the report for the fatal pedestrian vs Metra train incident in 15°F weather (as if that wasn’t shocking enough), I noticed an email from an anonymous dissatisfied CARDINAL NEWS reader that claimed to be my friend.

Dec 10, 2019 6:36 am Email …

Hi, I am a friend of yours and frequent visitor to your site. I am going to stop visiting your site if you continue to show ads for such a horrible human being. I just thought you should know you are alienating 50 percent of your web site viewers by admitting you are a Trump supporter. I’m only telling you because I care (sic, no period)

— Signed, Concerned Neighbor

Wow, I don’t want to be alienating 50 percent of my website viewers. That could put me out of business. Wait, what? I didn’t do it.

I hadn’t seen any Trump campaign ads on Cardinal News as a regular viewer, so I felt a little blind-sided. I have also been doing a lot of work on the website since October 2019 to improve the ad experience on Cardinal News; so the email was a little disappointing. Improving the ad space is not an easy task, but it’s a fun and interesting task that goes along with bringing you the news. It also pays the bills.

But this short little anonymous email raised concerns I have thought about for a long time: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Thought, Freedom of the Press, Liberty, Controlled Speech, the Cancel Culture, Mass Information, Advertising, Civil Discourse, Fraud, Fake News, Political Polarization, Social Media, Ignorance, Arrogance, Customer Service and more.

Although the email did not involve public shaming, it did involve a private one-to-one cancel culture technique with implied public implications.

Cancel Culture
When people identify “offenses” committed by members of their community and publicly “call out” the offenders, in an effort to control, shame or punish them (the offense being allowing ads for the President of the United States to appear on CARDINAL NEWS).

I thought I would sort out my thoughts on this email and share my response in a published article. Although it’s a lengthy 10-Point reply, some of you may find it interesting. Hopefully, any readers who may have similar concerns as the anonymous sender of the email, might have their concerns alleviated, and will also learn some techniques to avoid ads they don’t want to see.

Here’s the reply …

“Dear ‘Friend’ (emphasis on single quotes)

Having received your email, I have developed a lengthy response that will help you understand some misconceptions I believe you have. In the final point (#10), there is some information on how to attempt to control ads that you don’t want to see on Cardinal News or any website you visit.

1. You seem to be upset about Trump ads and a perceived association with Cardinal News because you don’t understand how digital ads work. I don’t choose Trump ads to display on Cardinal News. Any slot that displayed a Trump ad is administered by a third party service that administers, serves, regulates, and maintains the ads. Ads are delivered based on the content on the Cardinal News website AND on YOUR personal viewing history among all websites that you view. If you are a frequent visitor of political sites or even opponents of Donald Trump, it is possible that your cookies signaled a particular advertiser to deliver Trump ads to you via Cardinal News. Here is another example: If you see wine ads on the Cardinal News website, it doesn’t mean that I support the drinking of alcohol beverages or that I like to drink wine. It likely means that based on your website viewing history, some marketing algorithm has decided that you might be a potential purchaser of wine, and an advertiser has automatically pre-bid for a rapid and highly-complex process that delivers a wine ad to you via the Cardinal News website or any other website that your visit.

If you see wine ads on the Cardinal News website, it doesn’t mean that I support the drinking of alcohol beverages or that I like to drink wine. It likely means that based on your website viewing history, some marketing algorithm has decided that you might be a potential purchaser of wine.

— Cardinal News

2. Regarding your Trump ad complaint, you didn’t provide any particular details about what the ad was supporting or selling. Without providing any detailed information. It is NOT helpful to complain without details because without any details I can’t track down the ad to see if it is troublesome or find out whether the ad violated any ad service guidelines (Down below in Point #10, you can read how YOU can report directly to the ad service about ads that you don’t want to see). Routinely, I view CARDINAL NEWS while monitoring for undesirable ads, or ads that violate the third party ad service policies. I have not seen any ads from Donald Trump’s campaign, but I have seen some ads that ask if Trump is being treated fairly by the media. This probably means that my web viewing history and my cookies have not triggered political ads related to supporting Donald Trump in the manner compared to your web viewing history. However, there is a way — as an administrator — that I can check all ads that are being displayed. There is a time-consuming task involving a blocking control tool where I can try to track down an ad to see what the ad is about. When I searched for Trump-related ads using the blocking tool in response to your email, I found Trump-related ads from his campaign and from third parties that voice support of Donald Trump. Again, I don’t recall seeing these ads while I have been browsing Cardinal News as a normal user. If the ads are found to be misleading or fraudulent or in violation of the ad service policies, they will be blocked. Otherwise, no political ads or politically-related products of Democratic or Republican parties or supporters will be blocked. Cardinal News has never blocked any political ads of any party, merely based on content of politics.

3. If there is one thing (well three things in a group) that Cardinal News supports, it is Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Thought, and Freedom of the Press as part of an evolving process and progression of Civil Discourse (even when politics gets ugly). Cardinal News also supports these concepts or ideals as crucial to a successful attempt at Democracy and Liberty, and especially as crucial to the avoidance of Totalitarianism and the avoidance of the oppression of human dignity and creativity.

4. If any suppression of ads occurs on Cardinal News occurs, it involves blocking obviously fraudulent news and ads, or blocking fake news ads and fake or misleading ads. Eliminating display of fraudulent or misleading ads is the “triage” priority. During many weeks, I spend about 10 hours/week blocking ads that I think are obviously not safe for viewers, because they are suspicious on multiple counts or are fraudulent or are obviously misleading. It can be a daunting task that — using an analogy — is more like weed control than complete sterilization. I actually have a checklist that helps me block bad ads. The past four weeks I have not performed this ad management operation as frequently because the website was undergoing some mandatory modernization upgrades that were time consuming, and I couldn’t take up too much time with administrative tasks, hindering delivery of the actual news. I expect to return to a more rigorous monitoring of ads in the near future. I actually enjoy the ad management process because it is interesting so see the ads that are delivered with a variety of Cardinal News content. It’s disappointing when bad ads or low quality ads are delivered. It is very satisfying when a quality product or business is advertised on Cardinal News, because I want the adspace to be interesting and fun. Unfortunately society is highly polarized in 2019, and what’s fun for some, is not fun for others. I don’t mind policing fraud, but I am not going to police what is fun and what is not fun, or what is interesting and what is not interesting for viewers. Again, Cardinal News has never blocked any political ads of any party based on content of politics; and that is primarily because political opposition or support depends on a particular individual’s experience and perception, and suppression in this domain leads to deterioration of the Freedom of Thought ideal. Successful Civil Discourse depends on people having respect for other individuals’ experiences and perceptions even if they’re not agreeable. In response to your 50-50 alienation figure: if I cater to your 50 percent, I will eventually offend the other 50 percent. If I refuse to cater to your selfish bullying and boycott talk, I may lose intolerant people, but I will gain people with virtues and the priorities related to building a better Cardinal News community that is more diverse, tolerant, civil and unselfish. Even if I did desire a plan to filter out Trump ads, advertisers have ways of getting around blocking techniques. Therefore, many ads might be blocked, but some ads that you might find offensive would still appear. Albeit less frequently, you would likely still see a Trump-related ad; and if you made good on your boycott threat, you would be gone anyway. The only way for Cardinal News to totally eliminate the slightest possibility of any Trump ads appearing on the website would be to eliminate the entire relationship with the third party ad service.

5. The use of the third party ad services currently allows Cardinal News to function as a free news service for an open, diverse community. Ad revenue helps pay for expensive services, equipment and software required to keep a busy website running nearly 100 percent of the time 24/7. Complying with ad standards dictated by third party ad services is an important part of a publisher’s relationship with a third party ad service (it’s mandatory actually), and is a TOP PRIORITY for the Cardinal News website. In addition to blocking some ads, Cardinal News also reports extremely bad ads to our third party ad service when these ads are discovered to violate the third party ad service’s policies. Cardinal News also entirely avoids applying all other ad services that have a reputation for serving MOSTLY misleading or clickbait type ads. Despite these efforts, bad ads or unwanted ads occasionally are displayed on Cardinal News, and any variety of websites around the world, because there are possibly up to almost 30 billion ads PER DAY displayed worldwide by the ad services connected to Google Display Network alone (SOURCE: Business 2 Community | How Many Ads Does Google Serve In A Day). Imagine the difficulty in policing that number.


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6. Because of unsatisfactory ad delivery in many categories by some third party ad services, Cardinal News has recently decreased the dependence on third party ad services by roughly 30 – 50 percent. Instead, Cardinal News has used an additional ad method with control of more positive, fun and hopefully enriching ads. The new ad method helps avoid some of the negativity associated with depending entirely on unknown variables in ad delivery among the billions of ad possibilities served that are not completely under our control.

7. In the spirit of civil discourse, it is unfortunate that you chose to threaten a boycott of Cardinal News because of your misunderstanding of the digital ad process. Unfortunately, you falsely came to a conclusion of me, and declared the accusation that I am alienating 50 percent of my web site viewers, as stated in your email, “by admitting you are a Trump supporter.” I would describe my political preferences as dynamic, and I am hesitant to endorse anyone or anything these days, at least without some type of disclaimer. Your mention that you’re my friend, and your attempt to control what is displayed on Cardinal News while threatening a boycott with an anonymous email is a little creepy. Cardinal News publishes news videos from diverse sources, including both Fox News and CNN; and Cardinal News, for example, has published many articles about Democratic Illinois House Representative Mark Walker’s efforts in the community. It doesn’t imply guaranteed support of Mark Walker, it means that his work is newsworthy. You unknowingly or knowingly tried to create a conflict that does not exist, while claiming you care. If you truly care you would do your homework before you make accusations and boycott threats.

8. Cardinal News occasionally receives criticism and boycott threats from extremists of political parties regarding content that appears, and this is likely a result of Cardinal News striving to be a news and information platform that provides a fairly unrestricted and semi-balanced flow of information. Often people wrongfully judge one article or one picture or one title as setting the tone of the entire website. Many people are too easily triggered by things they perceive that aren’t even real or true. People also threaten to boycott Cardinal News if content allegedly is not local enough, is too graphic, is not graphic or detailed enough, is a few days too late, is perceived to promote a specific business at the expense of another (e.g., UPS over FedEX), is opposed to or supportive of a variety of political concepts on either side, and is misleading because it was published as news was breaking — even though an accuracy disclaimer was associated with the breaking news report. Articles are not finite. Articles form a continuous stream of new information that is a continuous learning process. If we allowed every reader to micromanage our content or ads under the threat of boycotting, there would be very little serious or useful content available on the news site. If your intent is to bully Cardinal News into non-existence because you saw a Trump ad on Cardinal News, our first defense is to let you and other people know how things work — as is being done with this communication.

9. Many of the critics online against Cardinal News and against other news sites from other organizations are often wrong because they jump to conclusions based on their own perceptions, and this is especially evident monitoring Facebook comments across a variety of topics posted on Cardinal News Facebook pages, or content on other Facebook pages not connected with Cardinal News. When things get ugly online, it is usually connected to people that project their prejudices and stand their ground upon their own egocentric islands. Often discussion turns to personal insults. Skills of critical thinking and the discipline of civil discourse are lacking. My opinion is that human beings have not yet evolved to accommodate 24/7 mass information from traditional media and social media. It’s not that news sites never make mistakes, but hopefully people as a society will learn to get the whole picture and perceive larger patterns of reality before jumping to conclusions from a single article headline, a picture caption, a meme, or a digital ad. Many people embarrass themselves by commenting on an article posted on Facebook when its obvious they only read the headline or a picture caption in their timeline, and not the entire article.

10. Now back to the Trump ads. You need to learn the appropriate method to avoid Trump ads if they are disturbing you. In the coming months toward the 2020 presidential election (Tuesday November 3, 2020), you are likely to see many political ads of all types in a multitude of webpages and news websites. In most third party ads delivered on ANY website, there is a triangle that points to the right in the ad. I am providing here an example for the ad service from Google. Most times if you click on the little triangle in the ad, and if it is a Google-related ad, you will be referred to the page “About Google Ads” where there are interesting and informative details about the digital ad process and how the system interacts with you personally. You have the ability to control how Google personalizes Google ads, or even turn off personalization of Google ads by using Ad Settings. There is often an ‘X’ next to the triangle which allows you to close an ad. If you click the ‘X’ the ad will close and disappear from your view. You will also likely see two options: 1) “Stop seeing this ad” and 2) “Why this ad?” … which refers you to a page that will explain that the ad you’re seeing is based on the websites you’ve visited and the information on the website you are viewing. The page will also have a link that refers you to an “ad feedback form” The ad feedback form contains a few options for you to remark on the description of your complaint. The form also refers to Google’s advertising guidelines to help you determine whether an ad violated Google’s advertising guidelines; and you can make a decision about whether you want to report the ad to Google.

Hopefully, you made it this far because Point 10 has the practical advice for controlling the ads you see.


Mark Bostrom
Cardinal News”

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