Businesses over the past few years have struggled to reach potential customers while making sure their online ads don’t appear in the presence of dubious, suspicious, or potentially harmful content. AARP, mentioned in the NewsGuard report as one of the companies that had served ads on websites that advertised false voting claims, said that despite strict surveillance procedures, some ads had slipped through the cracks.
“We follow strict ad placement protocols, but no system is 100 percent foolproof,” said Martha Boudreau, executive vice president of AARP, in a statement.
An internal AARP review found that “a tiny fraction” of its ads, less than 1/100 of 1 percent, were displayed on NewsGuard-flagged websites, Ms. Boudreau added.
Matt Skibinski, general manager of NewsGuard, said companies should treat websites that post misinformation the same way they should treat websites that promote behavior that is inconsistent with their corporate values or post content they do not wish to be associated with.
“Many brands have someone whose job it is to ensure that ads don’t appear in what they consider unsafe or unsuitable environments. This includes violence, pornography and gambling,” Skibinski said. “We need the industry to see misinformation in this category – to cause harm in the real world.”
NewsGuard reported that Procter & Gamble ads were running on The Gateway Pundit, one of the websites that published misinformation about elections. In an email, Procter & Gamble announced that the website was not being advertised on purpose. Erica Noble, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, said if the company’s ads are displayed on a website that doesn’t meet standards, they’ll be removed quickly.
“These are all standards that were put in place long before the horrific events of January 6, but we know they are now becoming more important again,” she said.