Are corporates funding false news through advertising?

Fake news is reaching epic proportions. Not a day goes by without a blatantly false story making its way online.

At times, these articles look realistic and create a great deal of unease and confusion. However, as media users wade through an array of sites, trying to separate falsehood from truth, are major corporates advertising on fake news websites?

According to News24, it seems major brands such as Absa, Capitec, Cell C and even Mercedes Benz are indirectly contributing to fake news websites through advertising.

Does corporate advertising play a role in fake news spreading?


News24 ran a three-month investigation and caught these big brands advertising on fake news sites such as HINNews. HINNews is a Nigeria-based platform which publishes a combination of fabricated and real news. One of the stories it ran was that EFF leader, Julius Malema died of listeriosis.

However, HINNews is just one of several fake news websites which uses clickbait headlines and fabricated articles to lure unsuspecting readers in. These articles are either gory, focus on death or are racially charged.

According to News24, the respective companies caught with advertising on these sites, claim they did so inadvertently. These companies are now apparently blaming Google for allowing these websites to operate so freely.

News24 explains that Google enables programmatic advertising, which follows a user’s browsing patterns on the Internet. Advertising agencies then buy adverts on behalf of their respective clients. Google then allocates these adverts through a programmed named Good Adsense.

This system, in turn, uses algorithms to place adverts on websites, where its owners are then paid. Thereby making it a lucrative business. With the attention now on Google and the spread of false news, Google urges Internet users to contact them if they come across any sites.

However, will this truly stop the spread of fake news? Will disinformation on social media stop? What are your thoughts on the spread of false news?

Also read: Did you know false news spreads faster than factual news?

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