The Role Of Ad Tech In The Post-Truth Era

reneehill“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Renee Hill, president and co-CEO at Eyereturn Marketing.

Brian O’Kelley can be credited for taking the first ad tech shot at the alt-right by banning Breitbart from selling on AppNexus’ exchange. The site was added to AppNexus’ blacklist for publishing discriminatory content. It was a gallant move because Breitbart supporters and the like take no prisoners when it comes to blacklisting businesses, as they did with the boycott of Kellogg’s.


But Breitbart shouldn’t be the only site under scrutiny for the proliferation of discriminatory and fake news. Other sites, such as 4chan, Politicops and Conservative Daily Post, plus countless others, should also be blacklisted.

Blacklisting will not stop the proliferation of fake news and discrimination-based websites because they are often fueled by the same perpetrators of fraud. The primary goal of these “ad tech cancers” is to steal advertiser dollars. They apply machine learning and algorithms to autogenerate inflammatory posts linking to fake news sites that cash in on every impression served.

It feels like a battle that’s already been lost. Pizzagate happened. A man walked into a restaurant with an assault rifle, fired one or more shots in response to a fake news article about a child sex ring that was purportedly being run out of its basement by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.

It is becoming harder for people to navigate the truth. The new buzzword for our era is post-truth, but it doesn’t have to be. The digital advertising industry needs to band together change the way content is supplied and do three things.

Publishers should no longer accept anonymous content. Anonymous content needs to go back to the gutter. All content needs to be linked to an individual or company. That link must be verified.

All suppliers must also verify the domains they sell. This is as easy as verifying that the domains they are selling are the same as the domain with which they self-identify.

Advertisers must also demand transparency. The money fueling fake news and these prejudicial sites comes from advertisers. Advertisers need to put their values behind their dollars.

If these three things happen, there would be a phenomenal “trickle up” effect. Reputable web sites and content creators would see an increase in revenue, with advertising dollars being funneled to real content.

Anonymous and prejudicial content would go back to life on the fringe. This system won’t remove fake news and prejudicial views, but it will label it and force it to live outside of mainstream media.

Advertisers would see more value for the dollars they spend and these initiatives would greatly reduce the amount of money that is funneled toward fraud.

The internet has the promise to be the great equalizer of information, education and access. Ad tech has the power to create and enforce rules to promote this agenda. Without the proper checks and balances in the system, Pizzagate may be only the beginning.

Follow Renee Hill (@ReneeNHill), Eyereturn Marketing (@eyeReturnMktg) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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