April 28, 2022

Ukraine Conflict Series: ad-funded disinformation, corporate responsibility and policy solutions (Week 4)

GDI has observed a number of ad tech companies monetising anti-Ukrainian and anti-democratic disinformation. The most prevalent themes observed include:

  • Denazification: Ukraine is led by a Nazi regime and the denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine is therefore in the best interests of Europe and the world.
  • Bioweapons threat: Hunter Biden participated in the financing of a military biological programme in Ukraine. 
  • Bucha massacre: The massacre was a staged, false flag event.
  • Conspiracy theories: The conflict is a result of continued provocation of Russia by the Western elite and part of the ‘Great Reset’.

These disinformation narratives have been identified across multiple websites in multiple languages.

Example of Amazon ad on an anti-Ukrainian adversarial narrative

Ad tech companies servicing these ads and funding these stories include Google, Amazon, and Criteo.

Ad tech publisher policies must be updated and enforced. Most ad tech companies’ publisher policies do not adequately address the breadth of disinformation narratives associated with the Ukraine conflict.

As of April 27 2022, the companies found servicing these sites have publicly announced the following policies:

Ad tech company policies as of 27 April 2022

GDI calls for global policy intervention.

An urgent, long-term and industry-wide solution is needed to end the monetisation of harmful disinformation.
  • Quality assessment: Industry wide risk rating assessments of news sites to risk rate disinformation conducted by CSOs/ independent 3rd parties of news sites. This must be used for a) developing quality signals in ranking and recommender algorithms, b) informing monetisation decisions, and c) assessment of media pluralism.
  • Transparency: Expanded and centralised access to platform data. This could be done through an expansion of a common Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC). 
  • Strengthened publisher policies: Adoption of adversarial narrative framing for enhanced scope and efficient enforcement that defunds disinformation.
GDI calls for ad tech companies to take immediate action.
  • Policy enforcement: Ad tech companies should develop and enforce supply quality policies that specifically address narrative-led disinformation. 
  • Audit: Sellers should review existing publisher partnerships and take action against those that infringe on policies.
  • Demonetisation: Sites that consistently infringe on supply quality policies should be completely demonetised. Removing ads only from infringing content allows offending websites to continue to profit from digital advertising.
  • Data: Sellers should pass disinformation risk scores in the bid stream, allowing advertisers to more easily avoid inadvertently funding disinformation content.

For more information, contact info@disinformationidex.org.

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