Vodafone bars ads from appearing on fake news or hate speech outlets

Vodafone: new ad campaign features Martin Freeman
Vodafone: new ad campaign features Martin Freeman

Vodafone has put in place global rules intended to prevent its advertising from appearing on outlets that create or share hate speech or fake news.

The new rules include a definition of hate speech and fake news to determine if a particular outlet should carry Vodafone advertising. 

Vodafone will use a whitelist-based approach using content controls implemented by its global agency network (led by WPP), Google and Facebook.

Those controls ensure that Vodafone ads are only served within selected outlets identified as highly unlikely to be focused on harmful content.

These measures will be reviewed regularly by Vodafone and its global agency network, MEC, to ensure that the selection of outlets for whitelisting is appropriate and neither too broad nor too narrow.

"Hate speech and fake news threaten to undermine the principles of respect and trust that bind communities together," Vodafone Group chief executive Vittorio Colao said. "Vodafone has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion; we also greatly value the integrity of the democratic processes and institutions that are often the targets of purveyors of fake news. We will not tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content."

In March, Vodafone joined Sky and HSBC in pulling its ads from Google following the exposé on ads funding terror published by The Times. 

When Vodafone appointed MEC to handle its global media account in 2014, the telco's ad spend was estimated at $900m  (£696m). 

Vodafone's global rules 

The new rules are as follows:

  • Vodafone, third parties acting on its behalf and its advertising platform suppliers (including, but not limited to, Google and Facebook) must take all measures necessary to ensure that Vodafone advertising does not appear within hate speech and fake news outlets. We define these as outlets whose predominant purpose is the dissemination of content that is:
  • deliberately intended to degrade women or vulnerable minorities ("hate speech"); or
  • presented as fact-based news (as opposed to satire or opinion) that has no credible primary source (or relies on fraudulent attribution to a primary source) with what a reasonable person would conclude is the deliberate intention to mislead ("fake news"). 

Note that:

  • the term "outlet" encompasses all social media, digital, print and broadcast channels, sites, apps, programmes and publications;
  • the term "advertising" encompasses all forms of brand promotion including advertising, advertorial, sponsorship and co-marketing arrangements; and
  • these mandatory rules apply to all Vodafone brands, subsidiary brands, joint venture brands and sub-brands

The hate speech and fake news definitions, above, apply to an outlet as a whole. The test is whether or not the predominant purpose of the entire outlet is to communicate and share this kind of harmful material. An outlet that carries some hate speech or fake news content – but where the majority of content disseminated would not meet the tests above – must not be categorised as warranting exclusion from advertising whitelists on hate speech/fake news grounds.


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