Wednesday, January 25, 2023

How Google’s Ad Business Funds Disinformation Around the World

Streisand effect, phenomenon in which an attempt to censor, hide, or otherwise draw attention away from something only serves to attract more attention to it.

Elon Musk censors BBC report critical of Indian Prime Minister Modi, blocks members of parliament from sharing links, by @ryangrim

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BankThink ChatGPT will break financial services, but then it might save it

American Banker – Dev Patnaik: “I recently spent the best part of a weekend playing with ChatGPT, the AI-powered natural language tool that answers questions and responds to prompts in an unerringly human way. My conclusion? It signals the end of the financial services industry as we know it. That claim will be laughed off by the vast majority of financial services leaders. Unfortunately, many probably aren’t aware of what ChatGPT is — most financial executives I’ve spoken to in recent weeks haven’t heard of it. Those that have heard of it view it as little more than an upgraded chatbot In fact, the technology behind ChatGPT poses a direct threat to financial providers’ core strategy. Most financial firms think they’ll be able to keep earning high margins by selling trust and advisory services, especially to high-net-worth individuals. They’ve doubled down even as robo advisor firms have taken nearly $1 trillion in assets under management over the past decade. ChatGPT, or rather GPT3 and large models like it, will turbocharge these these upstart’s ability to provide trusted advice and planning o the full range of financial services from pensions to insurance to tax strategy.”

Fotografer Marcel Sz

Pro Publica: “In one instance, Google continued to place ads on a publication in Bosnia and Herzegovina for months after the U.S. government officially imposed sanctions on the site. Google stopped doing business with the site, which the U.S. Treasury Department described as the “personal media station” of a prominent Bosnian Serb separatist politician, only after being contacted by ProPublica. Google ads are a major source of revenue for sites that spread election disinformation in Brazil, notably false claims about the integrity of the voting system that have been advanced by the incumbent president, Jair Bolsonaro. Voters in Brazil are going to the polls on Sunday with the outcome in doubt after Bolsonaro’s unexpectedly strong showing in the first round of voting. The investigation also revealed that Google routinely places ads on sites pushing falsehoods about COVID-19 and climate change in French-, German- and Spanish-speaking countries. 

The resulting ad revenue is potentially worth millions of dollars to the people and groups running these and other unreliable sites — while also making money for Google. Platforms such as Facebook have faced stark criticism for failures to crack down on disinformation spread by people and governments on their platforms around the world. But Google hasn’t faced the same scrutiny for how its roughly $200 billion in annual ad sales provides essential funding for non-English-language websites that misinform and harm the public. Google’s publicly announced policies bar the placement of ads on content that makes unreliable or harmful claims on a range of issues, including health, climate, elections and democracy. Yet the investigation found Google regularly places ads, including those from major brands, on articles that appear to violate its own policy. 

ProPublica’s examination showed that ads from Google are more likely to appear on misleading articles and websites that are in languages other than English, and that Google profits from advertising that appears next to false stories on subjects not explicitly addressed in its policy, including crime, politics, and such conspiracy theories as chemtrails. A former Google leader who worked on trust and safety issues acknowledged that the company focuses heavily on English-language enforcement and is weaker across other languages and smaller markets. They told ProPublica it’s because Google invests in oversight based on three key concerns. “The number one is bad PR — they are very sensitive to that. The second one is trying to avoid regulatory scrutiny or potentially regulatory action that could impact their business. And number three is revenue,” said the former leader, who agreed to speak on the condition that their name not be used in order not to hurt their business and career prospects. “For all these three, English-speaking markets primarily have the biggest impact. And that’s why most of the efforts are going into those.”

ProPublica used data provided by fact-checking newsrooms, researchers and website monitoring organizations to scan more than 13,000 active article pages from thousands of websites in more than half a dozen languages to determine whether they were currently earning ad revenue with Google. (To read a detailed breakdown of how ProPublica obtained and analyzed the data, see this accompanying article.) The analysis found that Google placed ads on 41% of roughly 800 active online articles rated by members of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network as publishing false claims about COVID-19. The company also served ads on 20% of articles about climate change that Science Feedback, an IFCN-accredited fact-checking organization, has rated false.

How Google’s Ad Business Funds Disinformation Around the World Pro Publica