Ad for People Mover bus directs Anchorage residents to website making false allegations of voter fraud
An advertisement on two Anchorage People Mover buses directed people to a website and social media platform peddling bogus fraud claims refuted in the 2020 presidential election.
The city says that ads for the site are allowed and that it will not remove them.
The ads have caught the attention of a few Anchorage Covenants and members of the public who dispute the implications of the advertising and disinformation disseminated by the website.
The ads direct people to the FrankSpeech.com website for “The Truth About Election Fraud 2020”. The site is owned by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a close ally of the former president Donald Trump is a strong proponent of misrepresentation and conspiracy theories on voter fraud. The December 9 homepage featured a video of Lindell interviewing Trump.
“CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and the mainstream media won’t tell you,” the ad reads.
“I think this demonstrates the national effort to continue to argue a lie, to sow dissent,” said Assembly Deputy Speaker Chris Constant, calling the ads “horrible.”
The ads were purchased by Anchorage resident Myong Jones, according to the contracts. A total of four started running in September, although under the current contract, which lasts until January 2, only two are currently running. So far, they’ve cost Jones $ 5,738, according to contracts. She could not be reached for comment.
Jones’ husband Kevin Jones, reached by phone, did not respond to whether the ads were part of a larger advertising campaign for the website.
“It really doesn’t matter, does it?” ” he said.
When asked if he and his wife released the ads themselves and why, he replied, “It’s my business. It is not yours. It does not matter. He later said that “it’s just something my wife wanted to do.”
As for Assembly members and others affected by the announcement: “Tell them to put some skin on their backs,” Jones said.
[Stores drop MyPillow after CEO pushes election conspiracies]
According to Bart Rudolph, transit planner and public transportation communications manager, People Mover is operating with federal dollars, which means the city will not be withdrawing the ad due to free speech concerns.
The city has published regulations on advertising on buses, he said, but it can only restrict advertising if it violates one of the advertising regulations already published, he said.
“The restrictions are quite narrow and precise and beyond that we have basically established a ‘limited public forum’ for speech purposes. As such, the fact that something might be considered “controversial” by some viewers is not a reason to refuse to take the ad, “Rudolph said by email.
When Coven Forrest Dunbar heard about the advertisements a few months ago, he contacted the director of the Anchorage Public Transportation Department and asked if anything could be done about them. In response, Dunbar received an email from City Manager Amy Demboski.
“These announcements were checked and approved by (municipality) Legal before being placed on the buses,” Demboski said. Demboski also included the list of city bylaws for advertising in the email.
These regulations prohibit obscene, indecent, or profane language, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, marijuana products, and the promotion of illegal activities. The city code also prohibits the display of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual arousal, indecent material and content harmful to minors.
“We can’t choose outside of that,” Rudolph said in an interview. “… If an advertisement does not violate any of these restrictions, we cannot refuse the advertisement … whether we agree or not.” “
The city outsources its People Mover advertising through a third party, The Alaska Channel, a company that also sells advertising space at state airports.
The company is reporting potentially problematic advertisements for the city, Rudolph said. In this case, the city attorney’s office reviewed the ad and determined that it was not breaking the rules, he said.
But it’s possible that will change as the city reviews and updates its advertising restrictions.
The Transportation Department has worked with the Public Transit Advisory Board to update its restrictions on the advertising policy and expects the new policy to be completed by January 2022, Rudolph said.
He worked to “add more restrictions to prevent advertisements which, among other things, are false, fraudulent, deceptive or deceptive,” Rudolph said.
The updates could mean that the current FrankSpeech.com announcement would no longer be permitted under city policy – but that remains to be seen, he said. It depends on how the city defines the terms added in the policy.
“This is what we are currently working on,” he said.
Constant said he had heard many complaints from the public about the ads since they started running a few months ago. “It gives it the shine of public approval because it is a public institution,” he said.
However, Constant said he had seen other bus ads in the years that he considered offensive, but the city allowed free speech.
“As much as I despise the message, as much I think is the big lie, these ads (on the buses) are potentially a free speech zone,” he said.