Vodafone to stop advertising on hate speech and fake news outlets

We’re currently trying to get a list of the outlets involved in this press announcement. Whether it’ll involve tabloid websites is unclear at the moment, however the network has stated that new global rules are now in operation to stop Vodafone adverts appearing “within outlets focused on creating and sharing hate speech and fake news”.

Interestingly, they’re aware that the placement of their advertising is sometimes a little out of their control, with Google Ads and Facebook auto-inserting banner adverts in the most “appropriate” / inappropriate place.

The statement reads…

Recently, 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.

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.

Additionally, automated advertising technologies can have the effect of generating revenue for outlets focused on hate speech and fake news.

Advertisers such as Vodafone therefore 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.

The Vodafone Group Chief Executive, Vittorio Colao, tells us ..

Hate speech and fake news threaten to undermine the principles of respect and trust that bind communities together. 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. We will not tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content.

Vodafone seem to suggest in their announcement that a black / white list will be in operation to control which sites can display Vodafone ads..

The new rules focused on hate speech and fake news outlets are implemented by means of a whitelist-based
approach using content controls implemented by Vodafone’s global agency network (led by WPP), Google and Facebook. Those controls ensure that Vodafone advertisements are only served within selected outlets identified as highly unlikely to be focused on harmful content. These measures will be reviewed regularly by Vodafone and its
global agency network to ensure that the selection of outlets for whitelisting is appropriate and neither too broad nor too narrow.

Does this mean that click-bait sites such as the Daily Mail, which continually peddles hate and pushes a divisive and angry writing style, will be included? Well, we don’t know currently, but Vodafone tell us that sites and “outlets” to be blocked are…

.. defined as those whose predominant purpose is the dissemination of
content that is:

• deliberately intended to degrade women or vulnerable minorities (“hate speech”); or

• presented as fact-based news (as opposed to satire or opinion) that has no credible primary source (or relies on fraudulent attribution to a primary source) with what a reasonable person would conclude is the deliberate intention to mislead (“fake news”).

We’ll bring you more detail when we have it.

Update – Vodafone are not making the list of banned sites public, and instead a representative tells us that they’re confidential. Each Vodafone country has a different one and they will be updated regularly.

Reading between the lines, it seems that the major newspapers, despite their tone and writing style, will continue to receive Vodafone adverts. Those outlets that won’t get ads will instead be “the most extreme examples focused on polarising and divisive content”.