Advertising giant to Facebook & Google: Lose fake news or lose us

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Advertising giant Unilever is warning Google and Facebook that if they don’t do something about the proliferation of fake news, the company will pull its ads.

The company owns many well known brands, like Dove, Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s, and Dollar Shave Club. It spent over $9 billion on advertising last year, second only to Proctor & Gamble.

“As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, will say at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference in Palm Desert, California, according to Quartz, who received a copy of the speech from the company.

“We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain—one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers—which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.”

“This is not something that can brushed aside or ignored,” he’ll add, according to CNN, who also received the speech in advance.

While there has been much debate and criticism from both inside and outside of the tech world over the issue, hitting companies on their bottom line is likely to have the most effect.

“Consumers don’t care about third party verification. They do care about fraudulent practice, fake news, and Russians influencing the US election,” Weed will continue.

“They don’t care about good value for advertisers. But they do care when they see their brands being placed next to ads funding terror, or exploiting children. They don’t care about sophisticated data usage or ad targeting via complex algorithms, but they do care about not seeing the same ad 100 times a day. They don’t care about ad fraud, but they do care about their data being misused and stolen.”

Facebook in particular has been facing criticism over fake news and the Russian’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, who was an early employee at the company, said back in November that it was “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

Sean Parker, an early Facebook investor and its first president, said last year of the social network, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Jim Carrey announced on Twitter recently that he was deleting his page and dumping his stock, arguing that they “profited from Russian interference in our elections and they’re still not doing enough to stop it.”

So far, Facebook’s answers of limiting posts from media companies, and calling on users to report what media they trust and which they don’t, are unlikely to fix the problem and in fact could well make it worse.

Adding to the company’s problems, it is losing young people, who are a prized demographic among advertisers.

In addition to its announcement concerning fake news, going forward Unilever will put efforts into not investing in brands that fail to protect children or that create division in society, will tackle gender stereotypes through what it calls its #UnStereotype campaign, and will only partner with organizations dedicated to creating “better digital infrastructure.”

“2018 is either the year of techlash, where the world turns on the tech giants — and we have seen some of this already — or the year of trust,” Weed will say. “The year where we collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society.”

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