DemLabs blog

Fight disinformation by refusing to advertise on websites set up to spread propaganda

Groups spreading disinformation siphon funds meant for legitimate advertising. Ad networks like Google and Facebook are complicit and make money when they direct ads and revenue to nefarious websites.

When in doubt, follow the money.

Bad actors don't have the money or credibility to advertise their messages like traditional advertisers. Instead, they set up websites designed to build web traffic and then sell advertising spots on their sites to ad networks such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Advertisers pay Google to place their on line ads in order to sell their products and services. Google places their ads automatically on different websites - good, bad and ugly. It doesn't care because it gets paid regardless of the quality of the site. Google share a part of every advertising dollar it makes with the website that serves the ad. Bad actors know this, and have gamed the system and siphon money meant for legitimate advertising with the help of willing ad tech platforms who also profit from it.

The spread of disinformation can be reduced by denying ad-based funding to bad actors. How can advertisers prevent their ad funds from being mis-used? How can they spot ads that spread disinformation? How can ad networks stop supporting sites spreading conspiracy theories, propaganda and hate speech? The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) offers a real time data feed to ad networks and advertisers to stop ads being placed on sites spreading disinformation.

Google, YouTube, Facebook and Amazon profit from directing ads with disinformation to sites of dubious quality.

Reduce disinformation

Use the GDI primer which helps brands and advertisers understand and change their role in the disinformation ecosystem. You can make a difference by directing your advertising spending away from high-risk and brand-unsuitable sites toward sites with low levels of disinformation risk. The primer includes: 

- Disinforming narratives and angles to watch for
- Online publications peddling in these conspiracies
- Ad tech companies that currently enable this advertising
- Revenue from advertising that these sites make from this content
- Sites that offer the lowest disinformation risks for advertisers and readers

Disinformation actors + Ad Tech platforms

DemLabs created this relationship map with Kumu (a free app) to show how ad networks support the spread of disinformation. The map can be freely shared with this GIF, link or embedded in a website with this code:

< iframe src="" width="1024" height="576" frameborder="0">

Disinformation actors rely on ad networks for di

Takeaway: Take a bite of disinformation by denying the bad actors behind it the funding and exposure they get through ad networks. Use the Global Disinformation Index in your advertising plans.


Image credit: McGruff - Ad Council

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.