The "Big Lie" that the election was "stolen" from Donald J. Trump is only the most recent lie spread on cable shows, the internet, and radio that have given so many a crazy sense of reality.
"The "Big Lie" was stoked by conservative online sites, radio hosts, and television personalities. Trump spent weeks claiming voter fraud, and in a perverse reversal of the American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power, he and his allies incited an insurrection to go to the Capitol to "fight" as the final congressional certification was to take place on Jan.6", write Patricia Duff and Tom Rogers in Newsweek.
Over 100 Republican lawmakers sucked up to the "Big Lie" by voting to overturn the legitimate election result.
The subsequent impeachment trial showcased the notion that the election was stolen. Trump's 4th rate lawyers continued to perpetuate the "Big Lie" and sadly getting yet another acquittal. This should signal how pervasive the "Big Lies" are believed across the country.
We are playing with fire by continuing to allow the spread of "Big Lies". Media promoters of the "Big Lies" bear much of the responsibility for the lies in the minds of millions of Americans.
Many corporations have recognized how insidious these Big Lies are and are cutting off contributions to Republicans who incited the insurrection and/or tried to overturn the legitimate election result.
Additionally, Twitter and Facebook banned Trump and his Big Lies from their platforms.
"But what we have not seen yet is clear recognition on the part of companies for the role they play in financially supporting media that publishes lies and falsehoods. What has gone unnoticed is how much advertising support exists for the hundreds of internet sites that trade in this dark misinformation, and how the companies themselves are generally unaware that they are providing major financial support for these lies." (Duff and Rogers)
"Programmatic advertising" is a way that online ad purchases are automated to target audiences by algorithms through ad exchanges, which enable split-second buying of advertising inventory.
We all have experienced instantaneous ads and "click bait" that targets us on our choices of sites we visit.
This has become an extremely effective way to find an audience with great ispeed, but it also involves advertisers supporting content that they are usually unaware of.
NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information sites, has published the following information addressing the funding of the Big Lies:
- There were 1,668 brands that funded election misinformation sites.
- Progressive Insurance, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Disney, American Express, AT&T, Bloomingdales, Best Western, Best Buy, Verizon, Michaels, New Balance, and nonprofits such as AARP, Harvard University, American Cancer Society and Planned Parenthood have supported sites full of lies about elections, COVID-19, and vaccines.
- Their ads also show up on notorious misinformation websites such as ZeroHedge, The Gateway Pundit, OANN, Sputnik and American Thinker, all of which have pushed conspiracy theories and lies.
- Progressive Insurance was found to have run on the largest number of misinformation sites, with 298 ads on 25 sites.
- Walmart ran ads on 11 sites, including NOQ Report, which claimed "that the CIA worked with Democrats to change voting machine results and COVID-19 was planned by Bill Gates."
- Even Disney placed ads on CharlieKirk.com, a site that peddled election falsehoods and claimed that COVID-19 was a hoax.
- American Express had ads on Sputnik, a Russian government mouthpiece site that promotes propaganda and lies to U.S. audiences.
However, all is not lost, there are tools that have been used to keep a company's programmatic ads off pornography and hate speech sites and can be applied to "Big Lies" sites.
Through NewsGuard's BrandGuard service, companies can take steps to ensure their advertising is not associated with the Big Lie or COVID-19 lies.
NewsGuard has already flagged 71 percent of the sites publishing lies about COVID-19 and vaccines.
One would think that a Capitol Hill seditious insurrection and 490,000+ COVID deaths would force corporate advertisers to react to their advertising/underwriting of such dangerous lies.
We have a long way to go in curing the disease of spreading lies in traditional media, big social media sites, and the darkest corners of the web.
Companies stepping up and making sure they "Defund the Big Lies" is an essential first step.