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Hard news about humanitarian and social issues is being treated as toxic by overzealous ad technology, undermining corporate social responsibility and effectively punishing publishers for reporting on international crises, researchers say.
Take the winning of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. This was big news for the World Food Programme, but ad technology scanning for gloomy keywords like “famine” and “conflict” meant that big advertisers shied away from it on major media sites: An upbeat NBC article about WFP’s win was boycotted automatically by dozens of advertisers.
Major companies pay ad tech companies to stop their online ads appearing next to – and therefore being associated with – content that would hurt their brand image. The software automatically scans pages for topics like violence, terrorism, and sex. If a page is flagged “unsafe”, only low-priced advertising from less fussy advertisers appears, or none at all.
Mainstream brands don’t just avoid mention of violence, misery, and pornography in ad placement, but also of racial groups, religions, and sexual orientations. Adding to the political and human rights questions that raises, humanitarian advocates may object on principle at the inclusion of “refugee” and the “World Health Organization” on the lists of words apparently blocked by key advertisers.
More at this article in The New Humanitarian.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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