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Fake News Traffic Surges in Iowa, New Hampshire

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In a charged political climate, purveyors of “fake” and “inflammatory” news thrive, combining clickbait headlines with social media to drive traffic. That was especially apparent this week, with Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on Monday.

Fake news is a minefield for advertisers. A June 2019 study by DoubleVerify and Harris Poll found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers would be likely to stop using a brand if they saw its advertising beside “fake news” or “inflammatory” content. In addition, nearly 90% reported that brands bear the responsibility for ensuring their ads run beside content that is safe and trustworthy.

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In 2017, following the 2016 US Presidential Election, DV recognized the need to develop a brand safety category that focuses specifically on identifying and blocking fake news and inflammatory content online. The “Inflammatory News & Politics” category was launched to address the issue at a holistic level. Through comprehensive human review, DV analyzes a website to evaluate its structure, language and rhetoric, as well as the site’s association with others known for trafficking in false or hyper-partisan information. DV then uses artificial intelligence to scale and act on these classifications in real-time, filtering millions of potentially harmful ad requests.

New data released today by DoubleVerify reveals an increase in traffic for deceptive and sensational political stories in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire – both of which are home to the first caucus and primary events of the 2020 Presidential Election.

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In examining the usage of the “Inflammatory News & Politics” category by DV clients in each state, we found that:

  • Iowa Fake News Traffic Doubles — The state of Iowa’s overall traffic rate on “Inflammatory News & Politics” content climbed significantly week-over-week since January 12. In fact, the traffic rate for fake news content effectively doubled in the two weeks leading up to the caucuses. As of February 2, the fake news traffic rate for Iowa was 72% higher than the national average.
  • New Hampshire Sees Most Fake News — However, Iowa did not have the highest traffic rate for this category — it was second only to New Hampshire, which had a rate 82% higher than the national average. New Hampshire’s primaries are February 11. New Hampshire actually has the highest average fake and inflammatory news rate of any state since we started tracking it in October 2019.

The growing reliance on DV’s Inflammatory News & Politics category is evidence of the shift away from keyword-based content blocking, or from avoiding all political news content in a blanket approach. Advertisers are using more granular and accurate tools, as opposed to relying on blocklists of keywords that would remove a wide swath of trusted and credible inventory from their media buys. The end result is effective management of brand reputation online, while simultaneously preserving campaign reach and scale.

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