How do you make money promoting a violent insurrection? Advertising.
Conspiracies and disinformation thrive online. Who are the worst culprits? Who funds them? What can be done to stop them?
Check My Ads Institute, an independent watchdog organization that seeks to reform the digital ad tech industry through their Defund the Insurrectionists campaign. The campaign aims to cut advertising funding for propaganda from domestic extremists.
"Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk, Glenn Beck, Dan Bongino, Tucker Carlson, and Tim Pool — “The J6” are the six loudest proponents of The Big Lie. These six men are extremists. They’ve repeatedly expressed support for the views of white nationalists. These profiteers hold our democratic process hostage for the sake of their bank accounts.
Roughly 1 in 3 Americans believes ‘The Big Lie’, the conspiracy theory that President Biden won the election due to voter fraud. Nearly two out of three Republicans believe Biden stole the election. This conspiracy paves the road for the next insurrection. The advertising industry sends ads to extremists as though it’s just business as usual to fund the production of election disinformation." - CMA
Support for disinfo from sources you wouldn't expect
- Steve Bannon Suggests There Are Too Many Asian CEOs In Silicon Valley -- yet two of his biggest funding sources from ads (YouTube, PubMatic) are managed by Indian CEOs.
- Newsweek named Apollo as one of America's Most Responsible firms despite it sending ads to groups pushing for an insurrection.
- Yale University is a major shareholder in one of the ad networks (PubMatic) that sends ads to sources of disinfo.
Follow the money funding disinformation
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The disinformation industry
"The global disinformation epidemic is growing every day, funneled by ad dollars funneled from the opaque adtech industry. For well over a decade, the $400B surveillance advertising industry has operated with no oversight, no regulation and no consequences. They’ve produced layers of technology and algorithms that have purported to create an unprecedented effective marketing machine. Today, we know these algorithms have destabilized our information ecosystem, resulting in a global disinformation epidemic and a decimated local news industry. And yet, the impact of the surveillance advertising ecosystem on our everyday lives is not fully understood by the public, by policymakers or even by the marketing industry they serve.
However, marketers are unable to fight back. Too often, the adtech industry is working in direct opposition to advertisers — keeping information from them, making it difficult to check their ads, and keeping them out of the room. While there are many trade groups and organizations that represent the industry, there are none that represent consumers. It’s clear to us that the answer has to come from within." - Check My Ads
Ad network ethics?
Ad exchanges are responsible for where they place ads. This excerpt from Google's own ad policies along with with recent examples of disinfo from Check My Ads.
You make the call. Does Google selling ads next to content promoting a violent insurrection meets their own guidelines? Would you like your company's ad running next to an appeal for a violent overthrow of the government?
- We want to support a healthy digital advertising ecosystem—one that is trustworthy and transparent. These policies are designed not only to abide by laws but to ensure a safe and positive experience for our users. This means that our policies prohibit some content that we believe to be harmful to users.
- Dangerous products or services - We want to help keep people safe both online and offline, so we don't allow the promotion of some products or services that cause damage, harm, or injury.
- Enabling dishonest behavior - We value honesty and fairness, so we don't allow the promotion of products or services that are designed to enable dishonest behavior.
- Inappropriate content - We value diversity and respect for others, and we strive to avoid offending users. We don’t allow ads or destinations that display shocking content or promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence.
- Healthcare and medicines - We are dedicated to following advertising regulations for healthcare and medicine, so we expect that ads and destinations follow appropriate laws and industry standards. Some healthcare-related content can’t be advertised at all, while others can only be advertised if the advertiser is certified with Google.
- Other restricted businesses - We restrict certain kinds of businesses from advertising with us to prevent users from being exploited, even if individual businesses appear to comply with our other policies. Based on our own continuous reviews, and feedback from users, regulators, and consumer protection authorities, we occasionally identify products or services that are prone to abuse. **If we feel that certain kinds of businesses pose an unreasonable risk to user safety, then we may limit or stop related ads from running.