Emma Lacey
Emma Lacey 20 September 2023

Winning the War Against Misinformation

With every huge leap forward in tech, there is also risk. This is more true than ever as generative AI continues to be widely adopted by both brands and consumers alike. Brands clearly need to take matters into their own hands when it comes to tackling misinformation, but what tactics can marketers use to gain the upper hand against misleading content?

While the benefits of generative AI are numerous, its emergence has done little to dampen concern around the increasing amounts of misinformation online. In response, Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI – the company behind ChatGPT – has called for tighter regulation, while the EU is already preparing legislation of its own.

These are important steps forward, but the truth is that the rapid pace of this technology is likely to outstrip legislation, leaving the possibility of misinformation spreading quickly online, increasing the risk of brands placing ads in unsafe environments.

Appearing near fake news can have serious reputational consequences, and the majority of consumers (87%) believe brands should “take responsibility when associated with misinformation”.

Brands clearly need to take matters into their own hands when it comes to tackling misinformation.

Why is Conquering Misinformation so Important for Brands? 

Marketers are well aware of the risk that misinformation poses. With 63% of consumers stating that misinformation can negatively impact their perception of brands, and 50% going as far as to say they are less likely to purchase from companies that appear to support untruthful content, it's clear that misinformation can have a direct effect on a brand’s bottom line.

It is worth remembering, however, that the damage done by misinformation stretches beyond advertising.

For example, consider the spike in misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, or the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. False and potentially malicious content has the potential to dangerously reframe public perceptions of these events, demonstrating the threat posed to the public in terms of safety and democracy.  

Tackling misinformation is clearly not something that any one brand, or indeed industry, can do on its own. However, advertisers can play their part in tackling misinformation by implementing effective technology, ensuring human intervention across campaigns, and prioritising brand suitability.

The public, in turn, can contribute through fact-checking, opting only for reliable sources of information and approaching the sharing of information with caution.

What Tactics Can Marketers Use to Gain the Upper Hand Against Misleading Content? 

For marketers aiming to strengthen their position against possible misinformation, there are a number of actionable steps they can take to reduce the possibility of harm.

1. Reduce Reliance on Outdated Tools

While a number of years ago, the use of blocklist technology was actively encouraged to stop ads being placed alongside unsuitable content, these tools are no longer as effective, thanks to the growth of online video and the increasing sophistication of online content.

These blunt tools often hinder brands in their attempts to avoid misinformation. Marketers that are primarily using blocklists typically exclude themselves from positive content as well as negative, as the context or the wider subject matter is not considered. 

By reducing the reliance on traditional tools, and instead opting for newer, more nuanced technology, brands can successfully combat the problem. Brand safety and suitability solutions have become significantly more sophisticated in their approach, thanks in no small part to the emergence of AI.

For example, earlier this year, Meta leveraged AI to improve brand suitability for advertisers across Instagram and Facebook. New “inventory filters” coupled with an AI monitoring system provides advertisers with greater control over the context of their ads across the social media platforms.

2. Increase Human Intervention and Utilise Modern Technology Solutions

While technology has a vital role to play, human intervention is also needed to ensure that these solutions are continuing to effectively tackle misinformation. Machine learning is only as effective as the information it is fed.

These systems need to be managed and course corrected to ensure they are always accurately determining context and relevance for advertisers, in order to avoid wasting ad spend. This is vital for all AI-driven tools, not just those linked to brand suitability.

The potential of AI to tackle misinformation could be game-changing however. Its ability to be trained to identify and avoid untruthful information across the web is already being explored. Discriminative AI, for example, uses human-generated insight to assess the validity and the context of online content, acting as a firm safeguard for advertisers against untruthful content.

There is no quick victory over misinformation online and, realistically, it is unlikely to ever be truly vanquished. However, marketers can play a key role in limiting its spread and reducing the harm it does to the wider public.

By harnessing cutting-edge AI tools with human input and oversight, the threat of misinformation can be significantly reduced, not only ensuring greater brand safety and suitability in online environments, but a safer internet for all.

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