Vodafone introduces new rules to stop its ads appearing alongside fake news and hate speech

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Mobile operator Vodafone has introduced new rules to prevent its adverts appearing "within outlets focused on creating and sharing hate speech and fake news."

In an announcement on Tuesday, Vodafone said the new rules would be enacted via a "whitelist-based approach." Content controls would be used and implemented by Vodafone's global agency network – which is led by WPP – as well as Google and Facebook.

The new rules require Vodafone, third parties acting on its behalf and ad platform suppliers to take "all measures necessary to ensure that Vodafone advertising does not appear within hate speech and fake news outlets."

Over the past few months, the issue of brands' advertising appearing alongside extremist and inappropriate content has become a significant one.

In March, for example, Google's EMEA president of business and operations, Matt Brittin, apologized for the misplacement of advertising next to extremist content on its video site YouTube.

"There have been stories over the past few days about brands appearing against content that they wouldn't like to appear against and particularly on YouTube, and so for me it is a good opportunity for me to say, first and foremost… sorry, this should not happen and we need to do better," Brittin said during a press briefing at industry conference Advertising Week Europe.

In a statement on Tuesday the Vodafone Group's chief executive Vittorio Colao said that, "Hate speech and fake news threaten to undermine the principles of respect and trust that bind communities together."

"Vodafone has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion," he added.

"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."

Vodafone noted that the advent of automated advertising technologies – which use algorithms to place adverts in the digital world – had presented opportunities as well as challenges.

It added that in some instances, automated advertising could "lead to unintended and potentially harmful outcomes including advertising appearing next to offensive content."

Moreover, automated advertising technologies could generate revenue for outlets focusing on hate speech and fake news.

Lucy Handley contributed to this report

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