Stopping the Inadvertent Spread of Misinformation/Disinformation with Digital Advertising Technology | Knowledge

The rise of technologies such as advertising technology (AdTech), especially search engine optimization (SEO), greatly benefits retailers and service providers in the virtual sphere. Just as an eye-catching billboard near a key intersection or a primetime television ad and other forms of advertising were keys to success in years past, today’s marketers learned how to place their advertisements on popular social media sites, popular online games, and other web vehicles to engage more consumers. In today’s cyber world, online advertisements and other forms of digital marketing create more brand impact and reach more consumers and audiences than traditional advertising practices.

The existence of data insights, algorithms, machine learning and other innovative mechanisms makes it easier to target certain consumer groups. Online programmatic advertising involves buying digital campaigns for specific sets of demographic groups. These mechanisms use data insights and algorithms to serve ads to the right user at the right time – and at the right price. Programs used by advertisers know consumers’ interests and wants and give them what they want, even if consumers don’t realize right away that they want the product or service.

Unfortunately, the use of such programmatic online advertisements contributes to the unintentional spread of misinformation. In this process, reputable companies and brands do not choose – or even know – where their advertisements may appear or what content is adjacent to their advertisement. The mis/disinformation industry leverages this misunderstanding to spread and underpin content, leading brands to inadvertently fund and contribute to the spread of mis/disinformation. This propagation can create polarization among users and amplify the misleading information received.

Next steps

Lack of knowledge when managing digital advertising campaigns through online programmatic advertising could expose businesses to significant advertising and intellectual property issues. Brand goodwill can quickly suffer reputational damage from the unintentional dissemination of misinformation.

Brand safety technology companies are tackling and working to mitigate the spread of mis/disinformation. Their complex artificial intelligence (AI)-based discovery systems monitor harmful online content and help identify bad actors and untrusted information. Unmasking certain mis/disinformation threats in digital media will be crucial to not mislead consumers, to have a more transparent digital ecosystem and to protect reputable brands.

Advertisers should take steps to protect their reputation by asking questions of AdTech service providers to better understand where their ads will appear and what type of content will be adjacent to those ads. Brand safety programs should be implemented to avoid tarnishing goodwill through inadvertent ad placement.

For more information and advice on protecting your ads and ad placement, contact the authors.


The information in this alert is intended for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not intended to be and should not be relied upon as the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal issue, and it should not substitute for legal advice, which is based on a specific factual analysis. In addition, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and constantly changing. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific questions regarding a particular factual situation, you are encouraged to consult the authors of this publication, your Holland & Knight representative or other competent legal counsel.


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