Business Technology

Thursday 18 January 2018

Vodafone stops advertising on ‘fake news and hate speech’ media

Vodafone has announced that it is cracking down on its advertising policy
Vodafone has announced that it is cracking down on its advertising policy

Josie Cox

Vodafone has announced that it is cracking down on its advertising policy, meaning that its adverts will no longer appear on any type of media outlet that creates or shares what it describes as hate speech or fake news.

The telecommunications giant said that its decision is largely in response on evolving technology within advertising and media and the digital algorithms being used.

“The advertising industry and digital advertising providers such as Google and Facebook have developed automated advertising technologies that use algorithms to deliver digital advertising to targeted demographic categories of internet user, serving ads dynamically within individual websites and social media channels as those users browse,” it said in a press release.

“While automated advertising is a powerful tool – allowing advertisers to focus their investment on specific market segments across almost all digital properties – in a small minority of instances it can also lead to unintended and potentially harmful outcomes including advertising appearing next to offensive content,” it added.

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It said that as a result of this, automated advertising technologies can end up generating revenue for outlets focused on hate speech and fake news.

Companies like Vodafone risk their brands being marketed within outlets that are “fundamentally at odds with their values and beliefs as a company while inadvertently providing a source of funding for those outlets”, it said.

Vodafone, which spends about £750m annually on advertising making it one of the UK's biggest advertisers, said that it will implement its new policy immediately, using a “whitelist-based” approach, where it will earmark media outlets that it is willing to advertise on rather than the ones that it it is not.

It said that it will use content controls implemented by WPP, the global agency used by Vodafone, as well as Google and Facebook.

The approach means that Vodafone advertisements will only appear on selected outlets which the company identifies as “highly unlikely to be focused on harmful content”.

The measures will be reviewed regularly.

“Vodafone has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion; we also greatly value the integrity of the democratic processes and institutions that are often the targets of purveyors of fake news,” Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said. “We will not tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content."

A spokesperson for Vodafone declined to say which media outlets would be on the whitelist but said that the list would be extensive and include most major outlets.

Global companies and brands have come under intense scrutiny in recent months for their advertising standards.

Earlier this year more than 250 companies, including Marks & Spencer, Toyota, and HSBC, suspended contracts with Google, accusing the tech giant of allowing their adverts to appear next to controversial content on YouTube.

“Big advertisers like Vodafone hold the key to addressing this problem,” said Richard Wilson, one of the founders of Stop Funding Hate, a campaign which urges companies to pull advertising from certain media outlets they say promote hate speech. “If enough companies commit to advertising ethically, then this could help to make media hate - and fake news - unprofitable.”

Independent News Service

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