4. Report asserts Google is largest supporter of advertising on ‘misinformation’ sites — despite 2016 fix efforts
A report this week by a British-based nonprofit tracker finds that, because it looms so large in the digital advertising world, Google is also by far the largest revenue source for so-called “disinformation” web sites. It asks ad exchanges to become more open about their placements in disinformation sites.
“Just like with corruption, a lot of this stuff happens in the dark,” said Craig Fagan, program director at The Global Disinformation Index was quoted by Vice.com as saying. “There’s a risk involved for brands by being next to risky content. Disinformation is risky content just like pornography is.” “It’s not about pointing fingers at Google or any one company,” Fagan added. “It’s about pointing fingers toward change. If we’re able to undo the financial incentive, then we’re able to break the system,” Fagan was quoted by Vice as saying.
Only the ad exchanges know the amount that they have paid disinformation domains,” said GDI in its report. “GDI invites them to work with us to effectively scope and stop the funding of disinformation.”
Vice said that Google says it removes billions of ads each year for violating its policies, some of which target certain deceptive content. But it has no rule for “fake news” per se, partly because it sees accuracy as a publisher’s responsibility, and partly because of the difficulty of defining the problem. “The lines between hyper-partisan content, state-backed propaganda, and stories concocted purely for financial gain are blurry at best,” wrote Vice’s David Uberti.
Poynter.org also referenced the GDI’s study and noted it was based on a sample of about 20,000 websites found by (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact and others to publish misinformation. The GDI report estimates that ad technology companies spend about $235 million annually running ads on such sites.
“Our estimates show that ad tech and brands are unwittingly funding disinformation domains. These findings clearly demonstrate that this is a whole-of-industry problem that requires a whole-of-industry solution,” said Clare Melford, co-founder and executive director of the GDI, in a news release. It found ads from big brands like Amazon and Office Max on the suspect sites.
According to the GDI study, Google served about 70% of the websites sampled. It also provided about 37%, or $86 million annually, of their revenue. The next few companies didn’t even come close in their support for misinforming sources.
“Based on our sample, Google provides programmatic adverts to the largest portion (70 percent) of domains that we assessed,” GDI reported, adding: “It was followed by AppNexus (8 percent), Amazon (4 percent), Criteo (4 percent) and Taboola (4 percent), respectively. Among our sample of disinformation domains, companies like Google, Taboola, and Revcontent are over-represented when compared to their overall market dominance on the open web.
After the 2016 election, Google said it would restrict ads on sites that “misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property.” It has no rules explicitly against misinformation, Poynter wrote.
The Global Disinformation Index is a UK-based not-for-profit that operates on the three principles of neutrality, independence, and transparency.
COPYRIGHT / DISINFORMATION