Industry plans three-pronged attack to fight deluge of harmful content

Harmful content: internet users exposed to 9.2 million pieces in three-month period
Harmful content: internet users exposed to 9.2 million pieces in three-month period

Ad industry unveils 'consistent' strategy in war on harmful online content.

Internet users were exposed to almost 10 million pieces of harmful content between July and September last year, according to the Global Alliance for Responsible Media.

During that three-month period, an estimated 620 million pieces of harmful content were removed by Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. However, 9.2 million pieces still made it through to consumers, despite investments in expertise and tools by the tech platforms – that's more than one piece every second over the quarter.

To help combat the issue, GARM will embark on a three-pronged action plan, beginning in June, with the adoption of 11 common definitions to ensure the ad industry categorises harmful content consistently.

Covering areas such as explicit content, drugs, spam and terrorism, the definitions are designed to help platforms, agencies and advertisers protect vulnerable audiences, such as children, and stop harmful content from being monetised through advertising.

Second, GARM aims to develop common tools to ensure advertisers’ media investments are steered towards safer consumer experiences across images, videos and editorial comments. 

Finally, the alliance will establish shared measurement standards to help the industry and platforms gauge their ability to block, demonetise and remove harmful content.

Common measures for advertisers, agencies and platforms are seen as key to improving safety for consumers. Adopting these measures and agreeing to independent verification is considered crucial by GARM, which intends to track performance annually. A working group from the alliance will begin to specifically address this in April.

The strategy, set to be unveiled later today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, by speakers from Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Interpublic, is designed to protect the four billion consumers currently online.

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, said: "It’s time to create a responsible media supply chain that is built for the year 2030 – one that operates in a way that is safe, efficient, transparent, accountable and properly moderated for everyone involved, especially for the consumers we serve."

GARM, a coalition of members in control of $97bn of global adspend, was established by the World Federation of Advertisers in June 2019. It consists of 39 advertisers (including Kellogg, Lego, Microsoft, P&G and Unilever), the big six agency holding companies (Dentsu, Havas, Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP), seven leading media platforms (including Facebook and YouTube) and seven industry associations, including ISBA.

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