In July 2017, Storyzy – a French ad-tech startup that uses AI and natural-language processing to root out fake news sites, reported that more than 600 well-known brands had their advertisements placed on websites that were characterized as fake news. With 600+ companies identified, it can be expected that many tech companies, banks, retailers, airlines, cosmetic companies, luxury goods companies, universities, and NGOs made the list.
Although there are some advertisers who know their ads display on fake news websites and choose to look the other way, most of the brands funding the fake news ecosystem are doing so without knowing they are contributing. This is the result of a combination of negligence and greed from media buyers, and the cohort of intermediaries (such as media buyers and trading desks) that rule the digital advertising industry. At the moment, three-quarters of digital ad money flows to Facebook and Google.
It would appear that most of the major brands don’t care where their ads show up, as long as the overall return on investment is fine. This combination of deniability and greed is toxic.
1. the ability to deny something, as knowledge of or connection with an illegal activity.
The study performed by Storyzy exposes the source of the millions of dollars that are contributing to the survival of fake news. Misinformation or fake news media are super efficient at using resources like social media to maximize their time and budget. After all, their production costs are but a fraction of those required by legitimate websites who produce real news.