How brands can battle social misinformation

The social space has taken huge hits over the past four years as a breeding ground for misinformation, and during the recent US Presidential Election social networks got even more bad press with decisions to suspend accounts because of misinformation. But social doesn’t have to be a bad place – one expert believes brands can help return social media to a neutral space. Or even a space for good. Here’s how.

Kristina: Why should advertisers take an active stance when it comes to disinformation spreading on social media?

Tod Loofbourrow, Chairman & CEO, ViralGains: The major social media platforms need to clean up their act when it comes to disinformation and misinformation. Research from MIT’s Sinan Aral shows that on social media “falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude,” creating harm for democracy, community, and social cohesion. Advertisers feed the social media ecosystem with their dollars, and have the greatest ability and responsibility to help these platforms take accountability for what happens on their platforms, just like other publishers take accountability for what happens on theirs. Advertisers have a moral and economic obligation to take their vendors to task for actively harming democracy, public health, and scientific education. The days of hiding behind Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act and pretending that platforms have no responsibility for what they publish will soon come to an end. Advertisers need healthy functioning democracies, and social media platforms need to be part of the solution, not simply part of the problem.

Kristina: How can advertisers serve as a force for good on social media?

Tod: Advertisers can insist that their content is not served proximate to misinformation and disinformation, they can make their voices heard at the executive ranks of the social media companies, they can insist on de-platforming of consistent spreaders of falsehoods, and they can insist that the social media companies report transparently about the extent of disinformation on their platforms. They can vote with their dollars, and invest more broadly on the open web, mobile and social outside the social giants and in publications with clear journalistic standards.

Kristina: What role is video playing in the evolution of social media?

Tod: Video is the most persuasive medium ever developed. This has proven true for advertising and it’s increasingly taking social media by storm. Look no further than the wild growth of TikTok, based on its novel approach to combining short user-made videos and easy-to-access fully licensed music. Video ads remain the most persuasive form of advertising, and their use in social media has exploded. One COVID charity – – reached over 20 million views last summer with COVID education using a combination of TikTok, LinkedIn and advertising in the open web, rapidly mainstreaming the news that loss of sense of smell was the leading indicator of asymptomatic COVID infection.

Kristina: How does personalized content on social media impact user behavior?

Tod: The key to personalized content is to target ads and shape content based on clearly defined interests of consumers. Many advertisers choose to use interactive advertising in the open web, on mobile, and in apps – where they can turn advertising into a two-way medium for gathering user preferences – and then use the insights and audiences gathered there to advertise inside the walled gardens of social media. Many social media applications make it hard for advertisers to extract data, so a mix of advertising in open environments where data can be gathered and closed social media environments tends to be the most powerful strategy for impacting user behavior.

Kristina: What should advertisers be doing today to ensure they are on top of their social media presence as future regulations may change how brands can leverage these platforms moving forward?

Tod: Advertisers should work both publicly and behind the scenes to make clear to their social platforms that combatting disinformation matters and that the platforms only deserve advertising dollars if they can demonstrate that they are forces for good. We are all responsible for the platforms our dollars enable. And when we vote with our dollars and with our voices, the platforms will listen.

This article originally appeared on BizReport.