Steps can be taken to reduce the threat of fake news infiltrating online advertising.
Speaking during the Westminster Forum Conference about tackling fake news and online misinformation, Konrad Shek, deputy director, policy and regulation at the Advertising Association, said the advent of disinformation has had an “enormous impact on trust in the media and politics.”
He said within commercial advertising there have been cases of false claims and promoted stories, and manipulated content, which can appear on social media and news feeds, while some websites that do “propagate false information are supported by adverts and legitimate ads can find themselves on these dubious websites.”
He also explained that there are online fraudsters that use tactics to better promote adverts, including adding clicks for misattribution, which can divert advertisers’ money to the fraudulent actor. “I’d refrain from saying that restricting adverts is a solution, as you have to think about the consequences of an approach and the impact it would have on the free internet,” he said. This calls for four options, he contitinued:
- Try and choke the funds to fake news websites, as brands are already sensitive about the impact of being associated with these websites and this is a good incentive to work towards being placed on such websites. However, he pointed out that the speed of ads in the supply chain mean it may not always be possible to know where the ad has been published
- The use of standards and technology to reduce ad fraud and reduce advertising money in the supply chain. “There are already a number of industry standards that have anti-fraud certification processes,” he said, with technology that can aid in the fight against ad fraud with an ever-increasing number of detection and prevention tools. “To that end, it is really important that the ASA is properly funded and it can continue to invest in technology to help it spot non-compliant ads online”
- Aiding the general public to build resistance and encourage critical thinking skills. “We need to invest more in digital literacy to help people inoculate themselves against scams and misinformation,” he said. “With society as a whole, we need to look at media more critically – look at ads with a more critical eye and ask what the motivation behind it is, and is it too good to be true?”
- Address political advertising, as this is not regulated by the ASA. “Politicians and political parties need to come together to figure out an appropriate solution soon, as in the meantime, unregulated political advertising erodes trust in all advertising”
“There is obviously a lot more to be done,” Shek said. “Economic gain is a significant factor in why disinformation exists as advertising plays a core part in it, but we need to realize there are other factors in play.”
He claimed a solution requires a holistic and proper multi-disciplinary approach, and work needs to be done to ensure like-minded countries are allied on this, as it is hard to discern what is real and what is not.