World-leading brands join global initiative to curb harmful online content

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) has launched a three-point strategy to foster safer digital environments with world-leading advertising brands, including tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Launched in June 2019 by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), GARM represents a coalition with $97 billion (£73.9 billion) in global advertising spending. A sizeable portion of that spending comes from digital advertising, with US digital advertising revenues reaching a record high of $28.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019.

GARM announced this initiative on Thursday, January 23 at the World Economic Forum. Advertising brands such as Adidas, Kellogg, NBC Universal, Microsoft, and Shell have joined the initiative in a bid to reduce harmful content online. CNN Business reported such brands wanting to avoid negative associations with damaging digital content, such as hate speech or terrorist videos.

According to Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble, Marc Pritchard, advertisements appearing next to harmful online content was a persistent problem. Upon receiving data in 2017 that illuminated the issue, P&G suspended their advertising on YouTube for more than a year, restricting their advertising to select channels on the platform.

The initiative comes in response to concerns like Pritchard’s, as well as in the face of data. The WFA reported an estimated 620 million pieces of harmful content being removed from YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram between July and September 2019. Despite those efforts, around 9.2 million pieces reached consumers during that period, resulting in roughly one piece of harmful content being viewed per second.

With four billion online consumers, GARM’s partnership with the World Economic Forum involves world marketing leaders in a three-pronged plan to tackle harmful online content:

  1. Shared definitions: ensuring the advertising industry categorises harmful content in the same way;
  2. Common tools and systems: creating better links across advertiser and media agency tools to facilitate platform efforts in categorising content;
  3. Independent oversight: setting up a bespoke team from GARM to start this strategy in April this year.

Representatives from Google and Facebook supported the initiative to establish common definitions and uphold a commitment to digital safety and cross-industrial links. While acknowledging progress in recent years on removing harmful content, Pritchard called on digital media platforms to step up, and for advertisers to do their part as well.