Protocol: major foundations angry at Google for placing their ads next to conspiracy theories

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Tech news source Protocol published an article last week noting that brand-name charitable organizations, including the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, are extremely upset to learn that ads for their foundations are appearing on disinformation and COVID-19 conspiracy sites. Their reference point is the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a UK-based organization, and an August update from GDI titled “Disinformation and Brand Safety also matters for NGOs”. The GDI update includes some pointed screenshots showing ads from brand-name non-profits including the American Red Cross, the Special Olympics, and the Alzheimer’s Association placed in prominent positions alongside content that spins a mishmash of conspiracy theories pulling in Bill Gates, COVID-19, Russia, and anti-vax content.

Some extracts from the article below. You can follow the GDI on Twitter at @disinfoindex.

- Bruce

In a letter to Pichai, top philanthropists slam Google for placing charity ads on disinfo sites

The leaders of more than a dozen of the country's top philanthropic organizations, including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday night, criticizing his company for placing ads for prominent charities on websites that promote misinformation.

The letter points to new research from a group called the Global Disinformation Index, which found that ads from organizations like the Red Cross and Save the Children have been running alongside conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and calls to jail Dr. Anthony Fauci on far-right websites like TheGatewayPundit …

Read the letter below:

August 12, 2020

Mr. Sundar Pichai
Chief Executive Officer Alphabet Inc.
Mountain View, Calif., 94043

Dear Mr. Pichai,

We represent some of the leading philanthropic organizations in the country. We write to you today to raise our serious concerns about the way Google sells and displays advertising…

A new report by the Global Disinformation Index, a U.K.-based nonprofit that works with governments, business, and civil society to disrupt and defund disinformation sites, chronicles many examples of the damage Google AdSense can do. Charities, which depend on online advertising for donations to keep the lights on and serve their constituencies, have their ads placed on websites that openly spread hate speech, promote dangerous falsehoods about the spread and prevention of COVID-19, and even encourage violence. All the while, Google pockets the fees.

In too many cases, this means the charities are paying Google, only for Google to damage their reputation and undermine their mission...


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