(21 August 2018)

Hi Jean,

If you have not already, please can I suggest you can contact Google for comment on this story. They have indicated willingness to comment.

I’ve included below responses on behalf of Discovery.


In light of the above I would appreciate your response and/or comment on the following:

The driving force behind misinformation/fake news websites such as these are monetising the traffic it generates, mainly through advertising revenue. Your company is indirectly contributing towards this with the programmatic advertisements seen on the site. Would you consider this statement a fair summary? If not, please indicate an alternative.

Discovery uses the Google Marketing Platform to serve programmatic ads.  (Attached are two documents covering the Google brand safety controls and advertiser guides, which apply to all their clients).  They summarise their approach as follows:

  • Policies: We have a strict set of policies for monetising content on Google, YouTube and AdX. Our policies explicitly cover misrepresentative content.
  • Detection: We work to prevent ads appearing against inappropriate content through a combination of technical algorithms and human review. Users can also provide feedback on specific ads or our policies through our online form or directly on the ads where they appear.
  • Action: When we become aware of ads that are being served against ineligible content we immediately take action to remove them.
  • Transparency & Control: Advertisers get full transparency into where their ads appear and we offer buyers extensive controls on where their ads may appear.

 >>One of the key benefits of programmatic advertising is that it enables advertisers to target audience groups based on their interests, instead of specific publishers. Discovery does not specifically list the websites that we want our advertising to appear on. Programmatic advertising appeals to different profiles of individuals – it has democratised the internet by giving smaller content creators an opportunity to earn revenue from advertisers based on the audiences they attract.

Who is responsible for your company’s marketing strategy? Do you make use of in-house or external talent to identify and implement these strategies?

>>Discovery uses an internal digital marketing team which partners directly with the ad providers such as Google and Facebook.

What is the mandate of your company’s marketing strategists mentioned in 2) above in respect of advertising on blacklisted websites? For example, how do you ensure that your brand is not associated with pornographic or illegal websites?

>>In addition to the policies that publishers on the Google Marketing Platform have to adhere to, we have the ability to blacklist specific sites.

Do you take similar precautions to ensure your brand is not associated with misinformation websites? If not, why not?

>>We have a number of blacklisted sites and update this list continuously as we become aware of new fake news sites. 

Were you aware that your advertisements were being published on websites propagating false stories as news?

>>No.  We have since blocked and have also alerted Google to remove them from their publisher list.

Now that you are aware that your brand is advertising on misinformation websites, what  steps do you intend taking to safeguard the integrity of your brand?

With the difficulty in detection of fake news sites, it would be beneficial if all South African digital advertisers could collaborate on a shared blacklist.