Fake news: Targeted campaigning of advertisers seems to have marked effect.
07 August 2019 12:00 AM

Our fight against fake news is starting to turn the tide

07 August 2019

By Stop Funding Fake News

Since we launched in March, Stop Funding Fake News has campaigned against fake news sites that publish hyper-partisan bigotry and disinformation. Our approach is simple: we show organisations where their adverts actually appear, because quite often they have no idea. Digital advertising is usually not placed directly by brands with content publishers, it's done by intermediaries. Once we or our supporters have tweeted at a brand, they can decide for themselves if it fits with their values to appear on these sites.

This week we celebrated two successes. First, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon's (AKA Tommy Robinson's) self-promoting fake news site, TR News, gave up on advertising, now relying solely on donations. Second, The Canary, which promotes conspiracy theories, defends antisemitism, and publishes fake news, announced it had seen its ad revenues collapse thanks to our campaign and is downsizing. Neither site seems to have responded by asking why respected brands such as WWF, eBay and Macmillan Cancer Support have blacklisted them. Instead, they have fallen back on conspiracy theories.

This isn’t about left or right: lies, sectarianism, and bigotry exist across the political spectrum. Fake news sites present a relentlessly one-sided view of the world. They make our politics and societies more polarised and hateful. Our campaign against fake news is on the side of truth and tolerance, not for a particular partisan position. Nor is this campaign about free speech. People can publish whatever they want online, but no company is obliged to pay them when they promote lies and racial and religious intolerance.

Most of the brands that contact us are seething mad at their intermediaries for associating them with these websites. They are absolutely right to be angry. We've found adverts for Orphans In Need, a Muslim charity providing humanitarian support around the world, next to articles on TR News which seek to place blame on the mosque in Christchurch for the shooting which took place there.

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