Digital Gabe
Cutting Edge Commentary On All Things Media

Is Digital Media Destabilizing Our Democracy?

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I’m willing to bet you didn’t wake up this morning wondering how programmatic ad buying could threaten our democracy, right?  Well as it turns out, there’s an unusual connection between the two which was exposed in this fascinating (albeit disturbing) NYT OpEd.

This one’s complicated . . . so let’s take it step by step:

  1. Large US companies like Geico, Amazon, Best Buy, etc. decide to advertise internationally using programmatic ad buying. These marketers employ a DMP who looks for available inventory which fits a brand’s targeting in several countries, including Russia.
  2. One of the largest digital publishers in Russia is a state-owned, Vladimir Putin-controlled company called RT.com. This company is known as the primary vehicle Russia uses to push out digital disinformation as propaganda in order to destabilize democracies throughout the world, including the United States.
  3. Marketers who decide to buy Russian media programmatically unintentionally run ads on RT.com, which effectively funds Putin’s disinformation war.  According to a recent Moat analysis, RT.com ran programmatic advertising from 477 companies and brands over a recent six-month period.  Among RT.com’s top 20 programmatic advertisers: Geico, Amazon, PayPal, Walmart and Kroger.
  4. In addition to funding RT.com’s operations, the prog revenue generated from these ad sales also get funneled to another Putin-controlled entity called Sputnik News. Think of Sputnik News like a very politicized broadcaster such as Fox News and Al Jazeera.
  5. Finally, Sputnik News is now beginning to infiltrate US media outlets. As an example, KCXL-AM in Kansas City now carries 6 hours of Sputnik News programming every day.  (reread that last sentence and let it sink in)

So there you have it.  US companies buying programmatic media in Europe are inadvertently funding anti-US propaganda, which is now starting to show up as media content in our heartland.  Does this idea disturb anyone besides me?

At least the Federal government is watching out for Russian influence over our democracy.  Oh wait . . . .

 

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