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How To Combat Online Ad Placement Next To Offensive Content

Sonal Patel, managing director of AppNexus Singapore, shares what can be done to combat the issue of online adverts appearing next to extremist or offensive content.

Sonal Patel, managing director of AppNexus Singapore.

Many are asking: What can be done to combat issues of online adverts appearing next to extremist and offensive content? No one company or group can take on these challenges alone. All players in the digital advertising ecosystem bear responsibility.

Google and Facebook have a responsibility to maintain a safe platform for their clients. They should agree on a set of community principles that exclude hate speech, pornography, graphic violence, illegal activity and deceptive practices in commerce – a broad category that encompasses ‘fake news.’ Critically, these then should be enforced with automated and human screening.

Part of the responsibility also lies with advertisers themselves. Ample tools exist to empower buyers of digital advertising to buy safely. Buyers of internet advertising can operate in white-listed environments, meaning they can bid only on pre-approved domains. If marketers don’t have the resources in-house to curate whitelists, they can work with credible advertising partners.

Exchanges themselves have an obligation to maintain clean marketplaces. Well known marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy impose strict quality controls that govern what sellers can and cannot offer on their technology exchange. It’s important that digital advertising exchanges follow suit. Running a clean marketplace is hard. It requires ongoing investment. It probably means leaving money on the table by declining to work with certain sellers or by excluding whole categories of inventory. But it’s the right thing to do, and the stakes are high. Even when it’s uncomfortable – as was the case when my company blacklisted the political site for its marketplace, because it violated our hate speech prohibition. As you may know, Breitbart News Network is a popular American conservative publisher. AppNexus responded to requests to audit the site and determined it not to be compliant with its hate speech policy. This is just one example of how important it is that advertising exchanges place brand safety above the short-term momentary gain.

Digital advertising funds much of the world’s journalism and creative content. If it isn’t sold in a brand safe environment, the ensuing breakdown in trust will lead to a corresponding collapse of the entire system. There is an opportunity for collaboration between responsible ad tech partners, industry groups, non-profits and academic partners to create safe lists that marketers and agencies can adopt or adapt. The challenge is systemic and a cooperative approach will benefit advertisers, publishers, and consumers alike.

You can read part 1: The Problem With Online Ad Buying here.