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Fake news? False Prospectus?

Coen van Wyk

Posted on November 17, 2018 09:49

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Why are advertisers so reluctant to act on fake adverts? What can be done to hold blatant liars to account? Is there an inoculation against lies?

Political fake news has been high on the media agenda over the last months. Yet there is a more insidious problem. The Internet advertising industry is running out of control, spreading wildly irresponsible ads and being used by unscrupulous opportunists.
 
Who has not been assaulted by "push" advertising? Now, I am quite able to ignore claims that my computer would work five times as fast if I would just download some magic app, subscribe to some website, or buy Bitcoins.
 
What gets my goat is when some celebrity is quoted in webpage advertising urging me to, well, buy Bitcoins. There was an ad stating that the South African President urged everybody to do so. Some algorithm deduced that I live in South Africa and suffer from softening of the brain. It took a few days of mailing Google Ads to stop this. Now, for the last month, I have been bombarded by ads claiming that comedian Trevor Noah has decided to share his wealth with other South Africans, if only they would buy Bitcoins.
 
I tried to delete these from my Yahoo page. Twenty times a day, every day. It gets tedious. The Yahoo complaints website experienced a problem and asked me to try again. For three days.
 
I tried to engage Google Adsense in a civilised way. I wrote and got an answer, and as many ads as before. I could find no way to actually start a conversation, so crashed into a number of conversations on similar themes and stated my frustration with the situation. The ads are still there.


 
An enterprising South African University administrator discovered the joys of clickbait recently. He and his sister set up a series of websites, and generated news articles, usually hovering on the race divide. A horrifying rape case, for instance, was re-cast to imply that there was a racial motive involved. Other articles published defamatory statements. He seemed to make enough from advertising on his various sites that he could quit his day job. Now he is facing civil and criminal charges.

A recent BBC article mooted the possibility of ‘inoculating’ people against potent false information, by pre-emptively giving people the correct ‘truth brief’.
 
But hold on: the publishing of False Prospectus, or deliberately mis-stating investment advice, may incur criminal and civil liability in most jurisdictions. Now, that may apply to the person drafting the advertising urging me to buy Bitcoins, if they could ever be traced. But does that not also apply to Google and Yahoo, when they place an ad which is so blatantly false? Would the editor of the Wall Street Journal, for instance, be legally liable to accepting such an ad?
 
I hope the purveyors of advertising may be held responsible for what they are pushing down our throats.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on November 17, 2018 09:49

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Questionable and clickbait web site completely misrepresented objections to a French mayor's push against so-called "alternative...

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