Fake news is not just an ad industry problem but a societal one, says Sizmek

Sizmek discusses its new fake news service

Fake news is not just an ad industry problem, it’s a larger social problem, according to Sizmek director of product strategy John Douglas.

Douglas’ words, however, aren’t said as a way of shirking industry responsibility as Sizmek launched its own technology that helps advertisers block fake news and satire websites from their ad lists.

In discussing how Sizmek plans to develop this tool, Douglas said, “We have to remember that fake news is not just an ad industry problem. It’s a larger social problem and we’re continuing to pay close attention to how such news is identified and flagged by other organisations as well.

“Sizmek’s natural language processing technology continues to refine itself by including things like sentiment, and the user curated custom categories. By husbanding the resources of many, the product and the effectiveness, and reach will continue to grow,” he added.

Sizmek is one among a small group of adtech businesses that are making a stand against bad actors in the media space. The Trade Desk founder Jeff Green has also been vocal about the responsibility that adtech has in supporting quality journalism, over and above fake news.

Morality aside, offering advertisers a product that allows them to have more control over what they advertise against is going to be good for business. Douglas said there was a growing number of brands that do not want to be against controversial or partisan content, particularly within political content.

“Most of the fake news out there is heavily skewed towards politics, so we expect an uptick from those brands that are simply trying to avoid anything that could even be remotely considered political. On the other hand, those strategies that are focusing less on context and more on audience will certainly find a lot of value in using our anti fake news offering and other brand safety categories to give them peace of mind without putting any brand equity at risk.

“There are also a number of brands that are standing up for various advocacy programs - so for those brands, we certainly expect to see an uptick in usage. It’s an incredibly hot topic and as partisan politics and passionate policy disagreement are the norm, brands are often looking to avoid “controversial” content. We expect heavy adoption in and around news, politics and editorial content related to current events,” he explained.

The technology has a manual element, in which new sites are added once a month that have been flagged as containing fake news, but from that point the process is largely automated as the content is blocked at a domain level.

Deciding on what constitutes fake, and therefore a blocking, has taken Sizmek some time to call, said Douglas.

“We thought a lot about this and, ultimately, we determined it was best to group fake news sites in with those that are also heavily partisan. The category itself is called ‘Fake and Partisan News’ for this very reason. Our goal is to provide an umbrella for our clients that both informs their association for certain content, without harming the right for authors to express their opinions on the open web,” he added.

With the service only having been publicly launched in June, Douglas couldn’t name any brands that had signed up but said that the company was talking to several brands and hoped to add the service to campaigns in the coming weeks.

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Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte