How businesses can defund fake news by boycotting ad placements
Businesses might be advertising on fake news sites without even realizing it. To help stop the spread of fake news sites and defund their operations, Comparitech is encouraging businesses that advertise online to blacklist fake news and hate speech sites from displaying their advertisements.
Businesses that advertise online most likely do so through large “bidding platforms” like Google AdWords and other ad networks. These services can automatically match advertisers with the best websites and placements at a given budget to reach a target audience.
This technology certainly makes online advertising much more convenient, but many businesses might not realize where their advertisements actually end up. A business could unknowingly place its advertisement on a fake news or hate speech site. Not only does this help to fund the fake news site, it could damage the reputation of the businesses.
We don’t need to tell you the damage that fake news has caused and is still causing. While some of these might be funded by foreign entities (coughputincough), our hope is that cutting them off from reputable advertisers will put a dent in their operations.
Fortunately, businesses need not scrap their ad networks and campaigns altogether to take action. Most bidding platforms, including Google AdWords, allow advertisers to add specific websites to a blacklist where they don’t want their ads to appear.
Google AdWords is the most popular platform for advertising, so we’ll show you how to blacklist sites step by step here.
How to blacklist fake news sites on Google AdWords
This tutorial will guide you through the blacklisting process to prevent your ads from appearing on fake news and hate speech sites on Google AdWords. Other advertising platforms should have similar capabilities.
- Log into your AdWords account. While under the default Campaigns tab, click Shared library in the left sidebar
- Under Shared library in the left sidebar, click Campaign placement exclusions
- Click the red + List button
- Create a name for your list. Call it whatever you want. Enter the list of domains you wish to exclude (see our recommended shortlist below) in the Placements field. Each domain must have its own line. No spaces or commas. Click Save
- Your list should now appear on the Campaign placement exclusions page. Check the box next to it and click Apply to campaigns
- Click all of the ad campaigns you wish to apply the blacklist to (all of them). They will appear on the right under Selected campaigns. Click Save
- That’s it! You should see a notification at the top of the page that says “Your updates have been saved.”
- If you want to update your list to add or remove sites, just click the list name on the Campaign placement exclusions page and click the red + Add button
Money well spent
Removing ads from fake news sites not only serves to stem the flow of money to fake news sites, it can also help businesses better allocate their advertising budgets. Research shows that advertisements on fake news sites aren’t worth the money.
Last year, online marketing company WordStream analyzed advertisements on Breitbart, the undisputed king of inflammatory right-wing fake news and hate speech, and found them to consistently underperform:
In reviewing data from November 2016, WordStream managed a total of 3,098 accounts whose ads had appeared on Breitbart. Nearly all those advertisers didn’t necessarily intend to advertise on the domain; only 7 accounts of those 3,098 had targeted the domain as a managed placement in their campaigns. During November, these accounts displayed over 3 million impressions on the site and their overall ad performance on the domain was awful! Ads on Breitbart.com have surprisingly low click-through rates, poor conversion rates, and cost far too much per click, compared to its peers on the Google Display Network.
What are corporations doing about this?
Last year, several major brands pulled their advertisements from Breitbart and other sites containing fake news and hate speech. Kellog, Hulu, Warby Parker, and others pulled their advertisements from the site. Fans of the site organized a boycott of Kellog in response, but the movement was shortlived.
To quell the rise of fake news Google and Facebook have both taken a stand against fake news. Google recently banned 200 publishers from its AdSense network for spreading misinformation, while Facebook has adjusted its algorithms to give fake news stories less prominence in users’ feeds. AppNexus, a major advertising technology provider, removed Breitbart from using its ad-serving tools on its website for publishing hate speech.
These are steps in the right direction, but we shouldn’t depend on Google and other corporations to stamp out fake news on our behalf. Advertising is Google’s primary source of revenue, after all. Blacklisting websites yourself is a proactive way to make a tangible difference.
Smaller advertisers probably need not worry about backlash and boycotts from readers of fake news sites. Unless you are a major corporation, removing your ads from a website will most likely go unnoticed unless you publicize your actions (which we encourage you to do!).
To be clear, we weren’t the first group to have this idea. Sleeping Giants, for example, has actively pressured advertisers to remove their ads from Breitbart for some time. They maintain a list of advertisers who have confirmed that they blocked Breitbart from their media plans. While Sleeping Giants primarily focuses on Breitbart, if you want to be added to the list, contact them them on Twitter or Facebook.
List of fake news websites
We’ve made a shortlist (okay, it’s a rather long list) of fake news sites lifted from a document published by Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, in 2016. Zimdars tagged more than 900 sites with up to three of the following categories: fake news, satire, extreme bias, conspiracy theory, rumor mill, state news, junk science, hate news, clickbait, unreliable, political, credible, and unknown. Our shortlist contains the websites tagged with fake news, hate news, and conspiracy theory, but you can consider adding more from the full list.
Just copy and paste this into the AdWords blacklist. You’re free to add and remove sites as you please, of course.
24newsflash.com 70news.wordpress.com abcnews.com.co abcnewsgo.co americannews.com americanoverlook.com beforeitsnews.com bighairynews.com bostonleader.com breitbart.com buzzfeedusa.com cap-news.com cbsnews.com.co channel-7-news.com/ cityworldnews.com civictribune.com clashdaily.com conservativebyte.com conservativedailypost.com conservativeinfidel.com dailybuzzlive.com dailyheadlines.com dailyheadlines.net dcgazette.com denverguardian.com departed.co donaldtrumpnews.co downtrend.com drudgereport.com.co embols.com empireherald.com empirenews.net enabon.com enduringvision.com eutopia.buzz fakingnews.com floridasunpost.com freedomdaily.com goneleft.com gopthedailydose.com infostormer.com intrendtoday.com itaglive.com ItMakesSenseBlog.com iwanttoexplore.com libertyblitzkrieg.com mediamass.net megynkelly.us mpidailymagazine.com mrconservative.com msnbc.website myfreshnews.com myzonetoday.com nationonenews.com nbc.com.co news4ktla.com newsbbc.net newsbuzzdaily.com newsexaminer.net newsfrompolitics.com newslo.com newswatch28.com newswatch33.com newswithviews.com now8news.com onlineconservativepress.com pakalertpress.com politicalo.com politicalsitenews.com politicalupdator.com prntly.com proudcons.com react365.com realnewsrightnow.com rhotv.com rickwells.us rilenews.com stormcloudsgathering.com subjectpolitics.com supremepatriot.com theamericanindependent.wordpress.com thebostontribune.com thecommonsenseshow.com thecontroversialfiles.net thefreepatriot.org thelastgreatstand.com theracketreport.com thereporterz.com therightists.com thetruthdivision.com thetruthseeker.co.uk threepercenternation.com trumpvision365.com undergroundworldnews.com unitedmediapublishing.com usadailypolitics.com usahitman.com usanewsflash.com usanewsinsider.com usasupreme.com usconservativetoday.com ushealthyadvisor.com uspoliticslive.com vigilantcitizen.com viralliberty.com webdaily.com weeklyworldnews.com worldpoliticsus.com worldrumor.com worldstoriestoday.com yesimright.com yourfunpage.com amren.com barenakedislam.com bigbluevision.com christianfightback.com dailyken.com dailystormer.com darkmoon.me davidduke.com EUTimes.net gatesofvienna.net glaringhypocrisy.com libertyfederation.com returnofkings.com themuslimissue.wordpress.com therightstuff.biz truthfeed.com whitepower.com 21stcenturywire.com 188.8.131.52 abeldanger.net abovetopsecret.com activistpost.com Alt-Market.com americanfreepress.net americanreviewer.com angrypatriotmovement.com assassinationscience.com awarenessact.com awdnews.com BB4SP.com BullionBullsCanada.com canadafreepress.com concisepolitics.com conservativerefocus.com conspiracyplanet.com conspiracywire.com corbettreport.com corbettreport.com countdowntozerotime.com counterpsyops.com dailyoccupation.com dataasylum.com davidwolfe.com dcclothesline.com disclosuremedia.net Dont-Tread-On.Me Dutchsinse.com EbolaHoax.com educate-yourself.org electionnightgatekeepers.com Expose1933.com eyeopening.info familysecuritymatters.org fellowshipoftheminds.com fourwinds10.net fprnradio.com FreedomForceInternational.com freedomoutpost.com fromthetrenchesworldreport.com gaia.com gangstergovernment.com globalresearch.ca godlikeproductions.com govtslaves.info greanvillepost.com henrymakow.com humansarefree.com informationclearinghouse.info infowars.com intellihub.com investmentresearchdynamics.com jesus-is-savior.com jonesreport.com libertymovementradio.com libertytalk.fm libertyvideos.org militianews.com nationindistress.weebly.com newstarget.com nodisinfo.com NoMoreFakeNews.com nowtheendbegins.com oilgeopolitics.net pamelageller.com politicalblindspot.com prepperwebsite.com prisonplanet.com prisonplanet.com prisonplanet.tv rense.com rumormillnews.com secretsofthefed.com sentinelblog.com sheepkillers.com shoebat.com Silver-Coin-Investor.com SilverBearCafe.com SilverDoctors.com SilverStealers.net skeptiko.com sonsoflibertyradio.com thedailysheeple.com theeconomiccollapseblog.com theeventchronicle.com TheExtinctionProtocol.com theforbiddenknowledge.com thelibertybeacon.com themindunleashed.com themindunleashed.org thephaser.com thepoliticalinsider.com truthbroadcastnetwork.com truthfrequencyradio.com ufoholic.com wakingupwisconsin.com weshapelife.org whatdoesitmean.com whatreallyhappened.com whowhatwhy.org wikispooks.com Willyloman.wordpress.com worldtruth.tv X22Report.com zerohedge.com zootfeed.com 365usanews.com 4threvolutionarywar.wordpress.com anotherdayintheempire.com antoniusaquinas.wp.com BrotherJohnF.com conservativefiringline.com conservativetribune.com cowgernation.com darkpolitricks.com FreedomsPhoenix.com heresyblog.net off-guardian.org oftwominds.com openmindmagazine.com orientalreview.org patriotrising.com patriotupdate.com paulcraigroberts.org platosguns.com redflagnews.com thefederalistpapers.org thegatewaypundit.com therealstrategy.com thewatchtowers.com truthandaction.org truthkings.com uschronicle.com usherald.com washingtonsblog.com wearechange.org collectivelyconscious.net geoengineeringwatch.org naturalblaze.com naturalnews.com realfarmacy.com disclose.tv readynutrition.com Acting-Man.com allnewspipeline.com thefreethoughtproject.com hangthebankers.com investmentwatchblog.com makeamericagreattoday.com readconservatives.news reagancoalition.com notallowedto.com frontpagemag.com truthrevolt.org thepoliticalcesspool.com madworldnews.com theantimedia.org thelibertymill.com washingtonexaminer.com politicalcult.com pravda.ru pravdareport.com topinfopost.com christiantimesnewspaper.com bvanews.com extraclubmagazine.com ihavethetruth.com
It is not our intention to lean left or right, as fake news is a problem on both sides of the aisle. Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for businesses to prevent their ads from ending up in the wrong place. If you take issue with this list, let us know in the comments.
Note that many of these sites use domains and websites that mimic real news sources, but are in fact intended to deceive readers. These include many sites with an extension added to the URL, such as ABCnews.com.co.
Bear in mind that fake news websites pop up all the time. We recommend you regularly update the list to stay one step ahead of the fake news fraudsters. If you know of a more up-to-date list (we’re not sure if Professor Zimdars still maintains this one), let us know in the comments.