The web is filled with more misleading information or “fake news” than ever before, and some of it perpetuates unintentionally. But when a business or brand contributes ad dollars to a fake news site or uses misleading information to bolster the appeal of a product, and consumers are made aware of it, it can compromise the company’s reputation, whether or not it’s done deliberately. 

Despite the increase of misleading content on the web, most media professionals say their companies don’t have set guidelines in place, according to survey findings.

In “Misinformation & Media Quality,” a report by tech firm Integral Ad Science (IAS) in partnership with YouGov, more than 500 media experts associated with adtech firms, agencies, brands and publishers were surveyed, and most (53%) said their companies don’t have strategies for navigating the spread of misinformation, though 73% of them feel it’s one of the biggest issues affecting ad media quality today. With more effort focused on evasion than prevention, 45% of respondents said their companies are planning to engage in broad blocking, or the blocking of entire content types to stop the spread of misinformation. Another 43% of media experts said they will block specific topics and 38% will block entire geographic locations where fake news is common, but less than a third (32%) use or are planning to use real context-based avoidance and targeting strategies; an effort that permits brands to avoid disinformation with little effect on audience reach.

The relationship between ad media and fake news is so important because the impact affects mostly the company’s reputation (42%) in regards to consumer trust over campaign outcomes, the survey reports; the latter specifically pertains to reduced audience reach (29%) and lost media/budget revenue (22%). With total media spend expected to reach $350 billion this year, which includes $235 million that advertisers will unknowingly give to global fake news sites, the problem is unlikely to reduce unless it’s directly addressed by brands themselves.

“As we continue to classify sources of misinformation, our report illustrates the heightened need to focus on controlling advertisers’ contextual adjacencies, including the implementation of suitability frameworks that specifically address false or misleading content,” said Tony Marlow, CMO of IAS.

Strike Social, a Chicago-based advertising and marketing company, shares three ways that digital advertisers can avoid fake news.

Blacklist fake news websites. To prevent your ads from appearing on fake news sites and social media platforms, create a running list of blacklisted websites. Update your list frequently, as some websites use various domains to continue running. 

 Create a whitelist to control where ads are listed. Alongside your running blacklist, create a whitelist of reputable and reliable websites to ensure ads are only featured on the list of approved websites. 

 Use the anti-fake-news options available on social media platforms. Social media platforms, like Facebook, are becoming more intelligent about how to stop and prevent the spread of fake news and associated advertisements. Facebook, for example, also launched a tool for users to flag fake news and provide the reasoning why. Becoming aware of these tools can help companies to better navigate the online space and be more aware about misleading information sources.

Danielle Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.