Publishers Point to High Public Trust In News Media as Facebook Scandal Unfolds

Publishers have pointed to the high trust levels placed in news media by the public as advertisers threaten to abandon Facebook following “deeply concerning” allegations of personal data misuse on a mass scale.

Representing leading UK advertisers, ISBA demanded yesterday that Facebook provide “a full account of further potential issues” so that “advertisers can take appropriate measures” as the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to unfold.

The revelations will also raise fresh concerns around Government’s use of social media platforms for advertising and the use of taxpayers’ cash to fund platforms such as Facebook instead of news media publications which invest in journalism. The News Media Association has raised these points repeatedly with Government officials over the past year.  

The Times reported this morning that it understood that some of ISBA’s 3,000 brands, which include those of the consumer goods companies Unilever and P&G, will not tolerate association with Facebook if it emerges that users’ data has found its way into the hands of brokers and political campaigners without authorisation.

Sources close to the trade body said that if the company’s answers were not satisfactory, advertisers might spend their money elsewhere. ISBA will meet Facebook executives this week, The Times reported.

Following the revelations, publishers have pointed to the stark contrast in trust in social media platforms compared to news media publications. A survey by YouGov in February commissioned by Local Media Works found that local press in print and digital is the most trusted source for local news and information, way ahead of search engines and social media.   

The YouGov findings echo those of the recent Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 which found that trust in traditional media in the UK is at its highest level in six years (up 13 points to 61 per cent) while trust in social platforms has dropped to 24 per cent and trust in search engines has dropped to 47 per cent.

The News Media Association has repeatedly raised concerns with Government around its “digital first” communications policy and which has seen taxpayers’ cash used to fund social media platforms such as Facebook instead of news media publications which invest in journlaism. 

In 2016, 42 per cent of Government advertising spend was on digital, with 34 per cent of this on programmatic activity, according to Cabinet Office figures cited by the NMA in a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer last year.

“We were informed that the government deploys three layers of protection for government digital advertising campaigns, including white list, black list and pre- and post- bid blocking. Yet, according to the latest expose by The Times, these protections are not working and taxpayers are unwittingly funding extremists through government advertising on Google’s YouTube.

“It has been reported that the government has had to pull its advertising from YouTube pending investigations.”

The NMA has sent a series of Freedom of Information requests to Government departments requesting a breakdown of ad spend across different media but the majority have not yet supplied the requested information.

The NMA has also called for an investigation by the CMA into the impact of Google, Facebook, and a digital advertising supply chain described by Marc Pritchard of the world’s largest advertiser Procter & Gamble as “murky at best, fraudulent at worst.”