Are brands unwittingly financing fake news?

Last month, it was revealed that many of the world’s biggest brands have been found to advertise on digital sites containing COVID-19 misinformation.

An analysis of programmatic advertising data conducted by NewsGuard and Comscore found that nearly $2.6 billion in estimated advertising revenue is being sent to publishers of misinformation and disinformation each year by programmatic advertisers.

Over 4,000 brands, including Pepsi, Starbucks, Comcast, Verizon, Marriott, and even the CDC, were found to have bought ads on websites publishing misinformation about COVID-19, according to NewsGuard.

An analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism also found that brands such as Nike, Amazon and Ted Baker, have been advertising on websites spreading COVID-19 misinformation. “These ads are placed through the ‘opaque by design’ digital advertising market, which is expected to be worth more than $455 billion this year,” the report stated.

The nature of programmatic advertising is what causes ads to be placed on misinformation websites because of the lack of transparency regarding where the ad is being placed.

Money flows to sites hosting harmful content because the system of bidding on ads means these sites get mixed in with other, more benign ones, Dr. Augustine Fou, an independent ad fraud researcher and former employee of advertising agency Omnicom said in the bureau’s report.

Arab News spoke to Stewart Morrison, managing director, MEA of FirmDecisions to better understand how brands and their agencies can prevent this from happening.

Read more on ArabNews, here.