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Final Paper

It is common knowledge that websites regularly collect specific user data online which then often goes to advertisement placement. Programmatic advertising is the means of such a process, and more and more companies are becoming aware that it may not be the best for their public reputation. Essentially, programmatic advertising is the process of placing advertisements on a website being viewed by an internet user based off of the users view history and data. Some websites and even pages on social media have been seen to take advantage of programmatic advertising and the revenue it brings in as an economic incentive on sites such as YouTube and Facebook. It is also problematic in that of its application and room for error when it comes to where these advertisements are placed on the internet. Several companies and organizations have begun to combat this in particular ways such as searching for alternative ways to get ad placements, being more transparent with how they are placing advertisements, and raising awareness about websites that aren’t safe to affiliate with. Digital marketers and branding companies argue that programmatic advertising is beneficial in helping consumers engage with advertisements that interest them; however, because these advertisements often end up on dubious sites. I want to suggest that programmatic advertising as an online marketing strategy is fueling the monetization of fake news, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In order to understand the most important way to combat programmatic advertising, you should know how it functions. Programmatic advertising is often managed by ad tech firms such as Xaxis, the largest ad tech management company in the world. On top of this, all of the finance for what ad is placed is determined in seconds, based on the viewing history of users. This can display a level of the internet that is very authoritative and economy based. It is also important to note that Suzzanne Vranica makes the point in her Wall Street Journal article that “marketers don’t fully control whether their ads will show up in places they would rather avoid: sites featuring pornography, pirated content, fake news, videos supporting terrorists, or outlets whose traffic is artificially generated by computer programs”(Vranica). This is important in that even the most powerful companies still don’t decide where their advertisements land. This is problematic because of the possible combinations of companies and websites, with some companies being advertised next to hate speech on far right or far left political websites. But, to give a more relatable example, Chris Drago, who is the senior director of Global Media, a media holding and post production company, has said  “We needed to make sure our ads are showing up where our ads make contextual sense, I don’t want to be on Victoria’s Secret because someone is there buying bras for his wife.”(Vranica). Such odd placement is common and showcases the mindset that lots of big name companies share when they see their advertisements on inappropriate websites, some that include biased or disturbing content. As a whole, the problems seem to be adding up for programmatic advertising where at one time it seemed like a good idea. 

No matter the solutions being sought out by companies and big organizations such as Sleeping Giants, the main goal is to find the most detrimental factor of programmatic advertising and putting a stop to it. In this case, it is the spread of fake news to gain revenue from advertisements. This also goes along with my previous example with Chris Drago from Global Media in that as well as disturbing or biased content, nobody wants to be sponsored right next to fake news. 

This is very prevalent in a situation concerning a Facebook Page turned news source, Mad World News. Their story is explored in the podcast “The Daily” which is produced by The New York Times. In it, married couple Cristy and Corey Pepple go into describing how Mad World News started as a hobby for Corey and eventually turning into a source of income with the amount of ad revenue it began to pull in due to Corey’s page blowing up at the right place at the right time. Eventually, they exploited the algorithm of Facebook that shows similar posts and combined it with clickbait and fake news headlines. After this, it is apparent that the Pepples were not the victims in this scenario and were motivated by money rather than the sole idea of spreading ethical news. It is evident when considering that Roose estimated that every twenty million views they would be paid around $126,000 a month to produce and spread fake news, with big name advertisements next to it. 

Facebook has claimed that they have taken countermeasures to combat this problem. They claim that they are“better identifying false news through our community and third-party fact-checking organizations so that we can limit its spread, which, in turn, makes it uneconomical” as well as “Making it as difficult as possible for people posting false news to buy ads on our platform through strict enforcement of our policies”(Facebook). This policy successfully deterred fake news sources like Mad World News who gained a lot of capital from ads, and this was because their viewer base went down. This is exemplified in the rest of the podcast regarding the Pepples situation in which it should be noted that their viewer count went down exponentially, and that the situation “hit mad world news pretty hard I mean most days they’re not in the top ten they’re not even in the top twenty”(Roose). Overall, this solidifies that Facebook’s new algorithm has been successful to an extent. As a whole, situations such as the ones regarding Global Media and Facebook are all direct responses to programmatic advertising in that of its exploitation.

Though it appears that Facebook just swooped in and saved the day, there is still programmatic advertising left on the internet. Despite the fact that Vranica says “Brands are cutting down their purchase of ads through open exchanges—public pools of ad space from hundreds of thousands of sites—opting instead for methods that give them more visibility into where ads are appearing”. This suggests that though companies are getting rid of it and outsourcing, there are still companies still blindly use it to this day. There are multi-million dollar organizations built around maintaining programmatic advertising such as Xaxis as mentioned earlier. At the end of the day, the root of the problem is largely the potential to make money this easily. Youtube convoluted their own system as mentioned in Dead Reckoning. THe authors mention that “ YouTube enforces ‘community guidelines’ to demonetize videos that do not adhere to their advertising-friendly guidelines”, which include hateful content but also videos that report on it or talk about sensitive issues and controversial events, which is a whole new group of people being suppressed in the attempt to block out fake news from gaining ad revenue.

In the end, the economic incentive side of fake news is a driving force in what we see in the media. Although programmatic advertising still exists, it is slowly being phased out as the proper way to place advertisements on the internet because of the fact it is so easy to have an ad placed next to content that the company would not approve of. The exploitation of social media to make massive amounts of money off of programmatic advertising is clear, as exemplified by Chris Drago from Global Media along with the Pepple’s facebook page Mad World News. In the end, the strategy of destroying economic incentives with programmatic advertising is what will eventually lead to the halting of fake news. 


Final Paper Proposal

Programmatic Advertising will surely make an appearance. This article looks interesting from Forbes

  • This is about Xaxis, the biggest programmatic media and tech platform in the world
  • working with 3,300 brands in 47 markets and produces more than $1 billion in revenue annually
  • In the interview they discuss
    • They work with companies to make their own algorithms for successful marketing

Multiple ways as well,starting from the beginning of the section, I plan on talking about a few points made in the section, with hopefully some outside information backing it up. It would be interesting to include this

Which is facebook’s own means to get rid of and destroy incentive for fake news. This quote “When it comes to fighting false news, one of the most effective approaches is removing the economic incentives for traffickers of misinformation. We’ve found that a lot of fake news is financially motivated. These spammers make money by masquerading as legitimate news publishers and posting hoaxes that get people to visit their sites, which are often mostly ads” is a good example that they are self aware of the money these types of people make. The things that they say they are going to do are:

  • Better identifying false news through our community and third-party fact-checking organizations so that we can limit its spread, which, in turn, makes it uneconomical.
  • Making it as difficult as possible for people posting false news to buy ads on our platform through strict enforcement of our policies.
  • Applying machine learning to assist our response teams in detecting fraud and enforcing our policies against inauthentic spam accounts.

  • Ad tech’s push of user data through opaque systems, and in some cases deposit malware onto readers’ devices, threatens reader privacy and safety and can further damage publishers’ reputations.
  • Ad tech and its metrics have been found to alter the internal production of news, which may be at odds with classic journalistic commitments to objective coverage
    • I’m interpreting this as news sources picking more topics that will grab people’s attention
  • Ad tech is plagued with fraud in the form of bot viewing
  • Advertising undergirds the economy of the internet.***
  • Journalism schools little attention is paid to the political economy of advertising on news sites. The user experience across devices, the loss of control over what’s displayed on publisher sites, and how this loss may impact brand reputation have all gone understudied by professional journalism curricula.

  • The researchers found a 75 percent reduction in the amount of fake news being shared after Facebook rolled out a new advertising system designed to intercept “fake” news articles that contain “deceptive, false, or misleading content
  • Facebook groups help perpetuate fake news in two ways: They serve as “echo chambers” where members “like” posts from other users that reinforce their views or opinions; and they act as a dissemination tool when members share posts made in the group with their own wider social networks.
  • The actions of platforms such as Facebook in regulating advertising do seem to have had an effect on the volume of fake news

Response 2

The means in which demagoguery is spread is essential to how successful it is. Two examples of its success can be found in recent pieces by journalist Kevin Roose:  “The Making of a Youtube Radical” and a podcast entitled “The Business of Internet Outrage” by The Daily. In both of these, it is apparent that consumers and producers of social media react differently in that of whether they are persuading or being persuaded. 

Although the basic idea of demagoguery involves persuasion, Patricia Roberts-Miller offers a better definition in chapter 3 of her book Demagoguery and Democracy. In it, she bridges a big part of demagoguery to identity and that it can be reduced to a “binary of us (good) versus them (bad). It says that good people recognize there is a bad situation and bad people don’t; therefore, to determine what policy agenda is the best, it says we should think entirely in terms of who is like us and who isn’t” (8). She makes demagoguery out to be an identity and even to the extent of a mass way of thinking similar to a hive mind. With this said, Demagoguery is supported by platforms that allow it to be produced and digested in one area. A platform supporting demagoguery would be wildly successful on websites such as the ones mentioned by Roose in “The Making of  YouTube Radical” and “The Daily” podcast.

Demagoguery can thrive in an environment where the website actively pushes it to a consumer. In Roose’s “The Making of a Youtube Radical”, it can be noted that it exemplifies successful use of demagoguery in that of its effect on a young man named Caleb Cain. In 2014, Cain started a several year long process of being a member of YouTube’s Alt. Right movement. This was the result of Cain being at a very bad point in his life leaving him as an impressionable young man with lots of time on his hands. As a result of this, he fell into the trap of the algorithm that YouTube created to push similar content to their viewers. As Cain started with mildly right leaning videos, his experience became extremely right after 48 hours of recommendations became increasingly controversial and opinionated. This is an example of how demagoguery works online, as YouTube itself promotes an algorithm that pushes political content increasing with intensity to appeal to a demographic. An example Roose uses in his text is that he found that the “data points form a picture of a disillusioned young man, an internet-savvy group of right-wing reactionary and a powerful algorithm that learns to connect the two”(Roose). Out of this, and the definition of demagoguery that we already have, it can be deduced that YouTube could be partly responsible for Cain’s trip down the rabbit hole of far right content. However he recently has come to a realisation and began to think for himself, with his own ideas developing for him instead of letting YouTube decide his identity with their algorithm.

Though YouTube may seem like the definitive social media platform to push demagoguery on, Facebook is one that rivals it . In Roose’s podcast, “The Daily”, it is evident that Facebook is a platform that accommodates demagoguery in that of the way it allows content to be produced and pushed to its users. In “The Business of Internet Outrage”, the story of newly married couple Corey and Christy Pepples who began running a conservative news page entitled Mad World News. In it, they exploited the feature of facebook that shows similar posts and combined it with clickbait and fake news headlines. When compared to Roose’s article, it becomes apparent that the Pepples were not the victims in this scenario and were motivated by money rather than the sole idea of spreading demagoguery. It can even be argued that they didn’t know what they are getting themselves into This is evident when considering that every “twenty million views they told us they sometimes got paid around six dollars in ad revenue for every thousand views”(Roose) which rounds out to $126,000 a month to produce and spread demagoguery supporting conservative values. This is seen when Corey mentions that they “got better at what topics were reliably popular. Cop stories. If there’s something about a cop, right? Officers trying to do their jobs, thugs use them as punching bags with the kinds of headlines could get people to click”(Roose). This statement along with when Corey also said “You get paid for every click”(Roose) showcases their true intentions and the process that helped them spread demagoguery. To sum it up, the economics of producing demagoguery are clearly different than the identity of being directly affected by it.

In the grand scheme of things, demagoguery, as defined by Roberts-Miller, can be spread through social media . Of the two examples compared, one testimony was of a victim while the other was of the producer. Caleb Cain fell victim to demagoguery partly because of the way YouTube’s algorithm forced a new identity onto him. The Pepples utilized Facebook’s own algorithm for monetary value without focusing on spreading demagoguery. Overall, the spread of demagoguery expressed in “The Business of Internet Outrage” and “The Making of a Youtube Radical” were viewed from different perspectives — from the perspective of the consumer (Cain) the content-producer (the Pepples) — and therefore gives a better view of how it functions in society.

Response #1

Throughout the analytical works “Demagoguery and Democracy” by Patricia Roberts-Miller, “Reality Bites” by Dana Cloud, and even a 2018 podcast by the name of “The Business of Internet Outrage” by  “The Daily” produced by The New York Times, there is a common theme that society has devolved into one based on division and ignorance of mind. In other words, naive realism. Throughout all of these works, the author makes a detailed argument building up ho naive realism effects contemporary society. 

In her work, “Demagoguery and Democracy”, Roberts-Miller frames most of American society to live in naive realism, in which “Many people believe that it is both possible and desirable to perceive the world exactly as it is, with no mediation; the most ‘objective’ view with the least interpretation, a mental state to which one can will – oneself largely by rejecting complicated thinking about the situation”(Roberts-Miller). Naive realism is a concept that revolves around the ideal that people see the world as it is presented. A clear example of this can be seen in “The Daily” podcast which was produced by The New York Times. In it, either Christy or Corey, who are the owners of a big conservative facebook page Mad World News, mentioned that they “got better at what topics were reliable. Popular cop stories. If there’s something about a cop tried to do their jobs thugs use them as punching bags what kinds of headlines could get people to click”(The Daily). This quote specifically refers to the ideology that put America into the state of naive realism that is mentioned by Roberts-Miller. This can be seen in both the consumer and provider of information in this case. With the consumer most likely not fact checking the source of the article and simply accepting it for what it is. On top of this, the provider is only in it for the money, or is at least mainly motivated by obtaining money, and unaware of their real effect on society, living with the “if other people did it, it can’t be that bad” which falls into its own level of naive realism.

Although all of this seems to fit hand in hand, Cloud’s opinion on the subject is for a different reason which most importantly is not opposed to the idea that naive realism is destroying American society. Cloud writes “fact checking is an ideological distraction that prevents ordinary people from assessing the claims that guide perception and action from understanding truth as something more complex than facts”(Cloud 74). This quote supports the idea that fact checking contributes in its own way to naive realism in the way that it is possible to not have a clear view on life even from the “enlightened” standpoint of trying to fact check. Or at least the idea that trying to solely fact check everything will inevitably lead to falling into the pit of naive realism itself with the truth being lost in the search for clarity. 

 At the end of the day, naive realism can be seen in everyone to an extent. The most clear example that is directly seen in contemporary society with the example of “The Daily” podcast with Corey and Christy promoting, yet also falling victim to naive realism. This can also be seen on the other side of the spectrum when people fall into heavy reliance on fact checking. As a whole, naive realism is the major idea that Roberts-Miller and Cloud were alluding to when talking about what has impacted the transformation of contemporary society the most.

Fact Check #4

The startling article that Medical News Today posted that spread the headline “Unhealthy gums lead to liver cancer” may concern a lot of people initially. This article can be found whilst scrolling through big facebook news sources or on popular news pages that spew links for hours on end. The article goes into detail by starting with the statistic that people in the UK who have poor oral hygiene are 75% more likely to get liver cancer. This is followed by an observation that digestive cancer rates are rising due to aging populations and environmental problems. Next there is a section about a digestive system cancer study, which entailed several statistics bridging the whole unhealthy gum to cancer idea together. Followed by this, there is a statement that there is no clear link between oral disease and gut cancer. Which completely throws off the entire article from that point on. Following that, there is a section entitled “Reason for link is unclear” implying that scientists do believe that there is a link however they don’t know what to attribute it to. As I further fact checked the article, it becomes more clear that this is simply a developing study and scientists are eager to label it. 

When looking at the base idea that having unhealthy gums leads to liver cancer. It is a good idea to at least see what the article has to say first. First off, underneath the article title it notes that it was written by Catherine Paddock PhD, as well as more importantly, fact checked by Isabel Godfrey. “What does this mean?” you might ponder. It means that we would have to perform a fact check her on fact check. When inquiring about such fact check I was confronted with the prompt “We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to other reputable media sites, educational institutions, and, whenever possible, peer-reviewed studies” and in order to find out how accurate this was, I had to read laterally using duckduckgo to search whether or not Medical News Today is a biased source. For a medical news source this is relatively important because a lot of ordinary people believe the medical studies that they just find online. I ended up with information from this article from On this site, I have discovered that it sources Medical News Today as reliable because it has never failed a fact check. As for what I found on wikipedia, there wasn’t much to go off of and it was all prior information that has nothing to do with their credibility. So in the grand scheme of things, it appears that the fact checking on Medical News Today must be accurate, and therefore, true as it hasn’t been proven wrong yet at the time of this blog post’s creation.

Though the fact check on Medical News Today hasn’t been proven wrong, we should still check a certain observation made in the article to be sure that we aren’t putting blind trust in the article . After starting with the first and most prominent statistic, “A large study of people living in the United Kingdom found that those who reported having poor oral health, such as sore or bleeding gums or loose teeth, had a 75% higher risk of developing liver cancer”, I read laterally to find another article relating to this. Though I found the same quote on, I searched up stream for the source on that same website and found it at a website by the name of  sage journals. This source encapsulates a study in which an experiment was performed to find the link between bad oral hygiene and gut cancer, in which the study reported that it was a 75% higher risk with those two factors correlating. 

As a whole, the idea Medical News Today has proven to be truthful in that of its sources and statistics. However, the article did radiate a sort of click-bait vibe after the article self admittingly stated that they had no real genuine evidence of the link between poor oral hygiene and liver cancer. I would argue that it makes the article even more reliable in that it advocates for further investigation.

Fact Check 3

Whenever someone mentions bias in the media, people tend to first think of the most accused news sources in recent memory. Fox News is one such news source. Typically, people attribute Fox News to being more far right than right leaning. However, according to, it seems to be Fox’s opinion that is more left than the news that they report. And I would heavily agree with that statement for the reason that it is able to be witnessed first hand.

The way I went about finding information on this was quite simple. I first went off of the statement made by concerning it’s standpoint on the News Organization. After that, I took a look at the Fox website to gather some information on how they report articles. After this I searched duckduckgo for fact checking websites that have reported anything to do with Fox News and bias. I eventually found something on which pointed me to a graph that even furthered my argument.

One may think, why does one site get to decide whether Fox News is, or isn’t, a far right News Source. Firstly, we need to start with the obvious. A simple analysis of how Fox reports their news will clearly lead to the conclusion that it is right leaning. For example, the biggest story of the day “Cruz schools Kap after America-bashing ex-QB posts Frederick Douglass quote ‘without context” is an example enough because this article was not written from a neutral standpoint. In the article, the author repeatedly refers to Sen. Ted Cruz and showed his standpoint of the argument way more than Ex-NFL star Collin Kaepernick’s side of the argument. Along with this, the author uses the phrase “so-called“ to describe the offical name of a Nike Shoe, the Betsy Ross flag shoes, which is a “pro-slavery” symbol according to Kaepernick. Even within the article, the way it is written supports a narrative that is right leaning. Next, I searched duckduckgo for “Fox News bias” across several platforms. A specific example of Fox News’s media bias is reflected in this graph on It records how many lies, or in this case it can be attributed to how many false statements or bias that Fox News has been spreading. This has been accumulated through politifacts truthometer and  how many posts have been made to fact check Fox news site wide. According to the graph, more than 59% of all of the fact checks made on the site have proven to be false in some way, shape, or form. 

As a whole, I think that this process should be customary when someone needs to even think twice before fact checking their news sources. Fox News is certainly one of the most prominent and well known right leaning conservative news sources. This is showcased just as easily as visiting their website and reading their biggest news article of the day. Even after doing some extensive(more than the normal person would do) work, it is clear that they spread news that sways in the conservative direction. Whether as it is interpreted as a lie or not, the evidence is undeniable.

Fact Check #2

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or more commonly known as “AOC”, is a U.S. Representative in Congress who is historically known for her liberal views. The meme above from The Conservative Nation depicts an unflattering image of AOC with text reading

“I’ve only spent 5 months in congress making $83 an hour, but now I want a $2.16 an hour raise. Do you think I’m CRAZY?”

This post was captioned with:

“Yes, you are definitely, certifiably, CRAZY!”

followed by a promotion unrelated to the post talking about a link that trashes big pharma.

Initially, I searched duckduckgo to find fact checking sites with info on how much House Reps get paid hourly as well as AOC’s support on the matter of congressional raises. Needless to say, I came up empty handed and needed to search mass news networks. Eventually I found a tweet directly from AOC that comes into play later in this post. I also utilized wikipedia for several statistics regarding congressional pay.

The Conservative Nation found the statistic that AOC makes $83 an hour. This assumption is based off of the idea that she works a 40 hour work week. However, this is not the case. According to, most house members work an average of 70 hours a week, which is almost double the average American work week consisting of 40 hours.

The legislative history of the $2.16/Hour raise was ignited by AOC just two short weeks before the writing of this blog post. This can be seen here. It initially started with her pushing for minimum wage and congressional salaries being increased to be balanced with inflation. In previous history, there hadn’t been many raises for salary and only consisted of adjustments for inflation despite small spikes in the early 60s and late 80s. However, since the 1990s, the salary for House Reps has significantly decreased from peaking at $215,267 in 1993 to a low of $174,000 annually.

AOC was clearly pushing for a raise in this tweet. In it, she openly states that voting against a congressional raise would promote dark money loopholes that still exist in congress. She also mentions in the tweet that it would make campaign financial reform harder. The $2.16 an hour raise translates to a $4,300 raise to which AOC referred to as “not even like a raise” and considered it as an adjustment of living. I encountered this tweet through going upstream from a FOX Business article. When referring to her salary, according to wikipedia, the base salary for all House Reps is $174K annually.

Overall, the meme depicting AOC is only half truthful in that she makes more than $86 an hour. The fact about making $2.16 is also wrong because these statistics were created assuming House Reps work 40 hours a week which of course they do not. The truth to this meme is that AOC heavily supports the idea of a congressional raise.

Fact Check #1

In this far right oriented meme posted by the facebook group Ex-NFL Fans, we see text defending Donald Trump for allegedly having relations with Russia. Underneath this text includes unflattering pictures of both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden with their alleged dealings with Russia. With Clinton apparently receiving donations to the Clinton Foundation from Russia and Biden withholding $2 Billion from Russia for personal reasons. I initially used to search fact checking sites for information regarding Clinton and Biden. After doing a little investigation, we saw that sites like and independently addressed both of these statements made about Biden and Clinton. 

“Hilary Clinton took payments from Russia during her time as secretary of state”.More specifically it seems to be referring to the claim that she gave away 20% of the U.S.’s uranium in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations. Although this sounds bad, according to, there is a reasonable explanation for it. Clinton actually had the job on a cabinet to approve the transfer of uranium after a large nuclear agency, Rosatom, purchased a large share of uranium which just so happens to be within America’s possession. While all of this unfolded, nine very important members of Uranium One, the company who was in possession of the uranium before Rosatom bought a 50% stake, had donated a total of over $1 Million. Though this seems scandalous, the decision to approve the transaction was not able to be vetoed, or in other words stopped. Only the president had the power to veto a deal like that due to laws. Also, Clinton has came out on multiple occasions noting that she “Never intervened” and “Wasn’t personally involved” in the matter. As a matter of fact, the Uranium did not necessarily ship directly to Russia. It turns out that there was a report in which uranium was transported from America to Canada, who has a program which was merged with Rosatom. And even then, the uranium was sold quickly after the transaction. Lastly, out of the nine individuals to donate to the Clinton Foundation, only one individual donated at the time of the business transaction in which Clinton did not play an important role in. Overall, the situation at hand may seem scandalous but actually play out to be a logical decision made by a company which just so happens to have nine key members who have previously supported a member who was in the cabinet to make the “decision” to approve the transaction made in the first place. 

“Joe Biden’s son took over a billion from China during his time as Vice President”. The alleged remarks about Joe Biden withholding $2 Billion dollars in exchange for the top prosecutor being fired that was investigating a gas company in Ukraine that his son was managing. This statement is somewhat true, but still an exaggeration of the truth. Joe Biden’s son was involved in a directorship for a ukeranian gas company according to On top of this, Biden allegedly lobbied for the top prosecutor to be fired out of the large interest of the U.S. Government. However, after consideration by the US senate, Biden’s reasoning for withholding the $2 billion was not a conflict of interest or even signifies that there was a true benefit from firing the prosecutor. In that, the statement itself was a half truth, but still spun the wrong way to deceive people and benefit the republican viewpoint.