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Advertising the ICS website

Like most other organisations, we use online advertising technology from companies like Google to let people know about the opportunities ICS offers young people. These technologies make a guess about what websites young people are likely to visit, and make sure one of our adverts pops up.

So we were quite surprised to be featured on the front page of the Times because one of our adverts popped up. 

The website in question is, according to the Times, a ‘fake news’ website. It probably is, but we can’t stop our adverts appearing on these sorts of website because of that. If enough young people visit that website, there’s a chance our adverts will appear there.

We’re not comfortable with being seen on ‘fake news’ websites. We do use Google’s tools to make sure our adverts don’t appear on websites that publish what we regard as really inappropriate topics (such as ones dealing with pornography). But there’s no mechanism for identifying which websites have views we (or journalists) do or do not support, unless we personally police the entire Internet.

When do uncomfortable views cross the line into inappropriate topics that Google can spot? It’s a very tricky balancing act, and not one that anyone, globally, has been able to solve yet. There’s been recent press attention, especially in the US, over Facebook’s ‘filter bubble’ that only presents stories that agree with your personal point of view, regardless of how ‘true’ they are, and about adverts delivered by Google appearing on alt-right websites. No-one has an answer yet.

So we’re happy to support any initiatives from Google or anyone else that help us more precisely identify what websites our adverts appear on, but largely we’re led by you, our audience. If enough young people choose to visit a website whose views we don’t like, there’s a chance our adverts will appear there. It’s not a perfect system, and we’ll keep working on it.

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