A gambling website has had over £800 worth of advertising removed by Facebook after violating rules regarding ads with political or social issue content.
Lord Ping posted 4 ads featuring gadfly journalist Mike Graham in which he lectured viewers on a variety of political and social issues in video blogs titled “Lord Ping’s Opinions”. These ads failed to run with a disclaimer identifying any individuals responsible for the ads, a direct violation of FB policy. The Lord Ping site has since removed two further ads (after we flagged them to FB) which promoted articles from their “Opinions” blog. These were not listed as containing social issue content, and again failed to run with a disclaimer.
After being contacted for this article, Lord Ping have added a disclaimer on FB and the website stating that “Opinion content is provided by experienced journalists and are not the views of Lord Ping.” The administrators for the FB page and those that manage the website have have however ignored our requests to identify who these experienced journalists are, and to what extent Mike Graham is personally responsible for online content beyond his “Lord Ping’s Opinions” videos.
The FB rules for ads promoting a particular political agenda or social issue commentary state that:
“Advertisers who want to create or edit ads in the UK that reference political figures, political parties, elections (including “get out the vote” campaigns), past referenda that are the subject of national debate, or one of eight social issues in the UK (civil and social rights, crime, economy, environmental politics, immigration, health, political values and governance, and security and foreign policy) must go through the authorisation process, place “Paid for by” disclaimers on ads, and have their ads entered into the public Ad Library for seven years. This requirement includes anyone who performs actions on ads about social issues, elections or politics, such as starting or pausing ads, adjusting targeting or any other function related to ad management.”
Lord Ping, and parent company Skill On Net ltd, have failed to respond to requests for comment regarding their promotional activities, in particular failing to disclose who has ultimate editorial responsibility for content posted on the site and in the ads, content that they continue to publish whilst claiming they “are not the views of Lord Ping”.
MIKE GRAHAM and “Lord Ping’s Opinions”
“British people are saying oh it’s too hot to work. We can’t possibly come to work. We’re just going to work from home. We’re going to stay at home. Well guess what? If you work in an office you’re better off working in the air conditioning. Don’t stay at home. Don’t lie in the garden. Don’t pretend you’re doing work. Come to work. Boost the economy. We need the money”.
In other Lord Ping videos (including some that ran as paid for ads), Graham discusses social issues specifically in the UK such as tax reduction, the “trans-lobby”, RMT strikes, the Northern Irish Protocol, Boris Johnson and the candidates to replace him as leader of the Conservative Party. These are all presented by Graham from an aggressively right-wing, Conservative and pro-establishment perspective.
The lack of transparency from Lord Ping regarding this content is important for two reasons. Firstly, we have no way of knowing who is trying to influence the political discourse of the UK by targeting potential voters through a gambling website. Secondly, the rank hypocrisy of individuals like Graham and the anonymous journalists who lecture us to “Come to work. Boost the economy. We need the money” whilst they are supplying content for a gambling company based in Malta, where it can “benefit from tax breaks that can often only be secured offshore.”
Graham’s overt political agenda (which we must remember is “not the view of Lord Ping”), is an agenda that is specifically targeted at potential UK voters and one that is echoed by the anonymous journalists contributing to the “Opinions” blog page. Some of the blogposts could be seen as almost satirical in their hyperbole, if it were not for the fact that they elicit responses such as these:
In a post clearly designed to influence the contest for future leader of the Conservative Party, and thus future UK Prime Minister, the author of “Truss Pledge To Deal With The Lefties” claims:
“Truss has indeed learned from her ways and has transitioned from the dark side of liberalism into the beaming sun of the British right-wing. Hopefully, her story of redemption will serve as inspiration for the country’s millions of misguided Liberals out there. Though Boris Johnson left a reign so historic and magnificent it is impossible to follow, politicians like Liz Truss remind us that the current post-Brexit golden age we’re in is in strong, capable hands.“
Another post, titled “18 Years on and Reagan Remains One of The Greatest” states:
“It seems that most people are happy to let Reagan’s superb work go in vain. Not me, though, as I make sure I abide by his and Thatcher’s moral codes every single day. Some say I’m stuck in the past, but I say I merely subscribe to higher ideals and standards. .. I keep a framed picture of the former President on my desk. Reagan may not be here in person, but his enduring spirit, wisdom, and greatness are all reincarnated through me.”
In the most recent article, an ad for which has since been removed, the anonymous author argues that it “Seems Netflix Has Gone Woke”:
“Netflix’s decline is only going to be further accelerated as they embrace anti-Establishment programming with open arms. Perhaps one way they could save their image is by producing wholesome, family-friendly documentaries about well-meaning leaders, monarchs, and politicians. It may not sound ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’, but I believe this kind of programming is what people seek most.”
The Lord Ping website is a subsidiary of Skill on Net Ltd, a company with a registered business address in Ta’Xbiex, Malta. Skill on Net have been licensed to run gambling operations in the UK since 2014, and have 52 trading names listed on the UK Gambling Commission website. The Lord Ping FB page was created in February 2021 and does not disclose how many administrators are responsible for running it, nor in which country they are based. The twitter account also does not disclose who is responsible for managing the posts. It has 126 followers and follows 73 accounts, including Boris Johnson and Priti Patel’s official accounts, Joe Rogan and a Donald Trump archive account.
Data regarding Lord Ping’s parent company, and it’s directors, was made available when a whistle-blower leaked 13.4 million financial records of offshore investments to the press in 2017. To be clear, companies or individuals whose details were made available by the leak, known as the “Paradise Papers”, have not committed any illegal or improper financial activities, the leak simply exposed those companies that may potentially benefit from being registered in offshore locations. The author of this article makes no accusations or insinuations of illegality or impropriety against any individual or organisation named here.
Olga Finkel, listed as a director of Skill On Net ltd, is also registered as being currently or historically involved in 162 separate roles in over 70 companies since 2004. Finkel is a corporate lawyer and lecturer in gaming law. She did not respond to a request for comment regarding the issues around Lord Ping raised in this article.
Whilst already known as a tax haven due to low tax rates for foreign companies, Malta became an attractive location for gambling companies to register their businesses after the small Mediterranean state became the first European country to regulate online betting in 2004. For the gambling industry this move meant that:
“It could generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, with companies able to offer on-shore betting to customers across the European Union’s 27 member states. By placing bets through an EU-registered sportsbook, customers received reassurance. Companies, meanwhile, benefited from tax breaks that can often only be secured offshore.“
Since the release of the Panama Papers in 2016 (another major offshore account data leak)
“The Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental body that investigates, and makes recommendations for anti-money laundering initiatives, added Malta, along with Haiti, the Philippines and South Sudan to its list of countries deemed to have insufficient protections against dirty money.”
Gambling With Lives, a charity supporting families bereaved by the suicide of those suffering a gambling addiction, have posted statistics illustrating how the gambling industry has an annual global profit of £14 billion, and spends £1.5 billion on advertising per year.
The question for this article remains as to why a gambling company, based offshore, would consciously publish anonymous, right-wing content in the UK, and yet immediately disassociate itself from the agenda promoted by that content when challenged.
Was this simply an ill-judged and cynical marketing strategy by Lord Ping to court the “opinionated players” in an increasingly competitive online environment? Or is it something more?
Follow Sean Rankin on Twitter: @ClydesiderRed
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