Thu 09 July 2020:
Digital advertising platforms run by Google, Amazon.com Inc. and other tech companies will funnel at least $25 million to websites spreading misinformation about Covid-19 this year, according to a study released Wednesday.
Over $25 million (€22 million) in advertisement revenues could be paid to websites spreading fake news and conspiracy theories by the end of this year, reported the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), which offers a web-based tool that rates news outlets based on their level of accuracy.
Google, Amazon and OpenX account for 95% of the ad revenues paid to COVID-19 disinformation sites, according to the study.
Those sites include “well-known disinformation sites like AmericanThinker.com, BigLeaguePolitics.com, TheGatewayPundit.com and RT.com,” the study said.
Major brands, including Bloomberg News, L’Oreal, Microsoft and T-Mobile have also featured advertisements on those pages.
The impact of disinformation
Fake news stories and conspiracies have also impacted people’s responses to the pandemic, as they have “undercut government lockdown measures,” and promoted “debunked and dangerous cures.”
Additionally, the perpetuation of fake news about coronavirus plays into other conspiracy theories, including ideas about the dangers of 5G networks and the role of the “deep state,” Craig Fagan, GDI’s program director, said.
“Those already pushing the conspiracy that 5G causes diseases have now turned their sites on the coronavirus being a product of that technology,” he said.
Fake news has also given anti-vaccine rhetoric a boost. “Those that already believed that vaccines were deadly have hooked their efforts to criticize the development of a coronavirus vaccine,” he said.
The study was conducted by analyzing 480 ad-supported disinformation sites that carried a high concentration of coronavirus-related conspiracy content.
“Disinformation is universal and an old phenomenon,” Fagan added. “Our study is an attempt to frame the monetary dimensions involved and the ad tech supply chain that is providing a financial lifeline.”
The Global Disinformation Index is a U.K.-based research group that provides disinformation risk ratings on media sites all over the world. GDI said it presented Google, Amazon and OpenX with the latest findings from its report. The group updates its research weekly and often tells tech companies when their platforms place ads on misinformation sites.
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