Vodafone, with immediate effect, will be blocking its advertisements from appearing on websites “focused on creating and sharing hate speech” and fake news. This will be implemented through what the company has termed a “whitelist-based approach” that will employ content controls based on Vodafone’s update of its existing advertising transparency policy. Vodafone will work closely with Google and Facebook for this. The telecom major has also defined what constitutes hate speech and fake news for the purpose.

Hate speech: Deliberately intended to degrade women or vulnerable minorities.

Fake news: Presented as fact-based news (as opposed to satire or opinion) that has no credible primary source (or relies on fraudulent attribution to a primary source) with what a reasonable person would conclude is the deliberate intention to mislead.

This decision pertains to all social media, digital, print and broadcast channels, sites, apps, programmes and publications, and will include “all forms of brand promotion including advertising, advertorial, sponsorship and co-marketing arrangements.” All Vodafone brands, subsidiary brands, joint venture brands and sub-brands will have to adhere to these new rules.

However, if the majority of the content published/shared on a media outlet doesn’t meet the definitions of hate speech and fake news mentioned above, then the outlet will be excluded from the advertising blacklist.

The company has further clarified that the present decision only relates to advertising placement, and there will be no restrictions on access of content, of any kind, for its customers on websites that it doesn’t advertise on.

Recent developments in the fight against fake news

– In April this year, Google updated its search algorithm in an attempt to push down fake news from its search results. The new update aims to prioritise authoritative content over low-quality content, based on signals such as how often other sites link to the site in question and the quality of the sites that link, the affiliation of a site with a university or verified news source. The update will also allow users to flag inappropriate autocomplete suggestions and featured snippet answers. Google also introduced Fact Check tag across its search and news products globally across all languages. More on this here.

– In the same month, Facebook revealed plans to pay fact-checkers to monitor news and the spread of misinformation on the platform. Late last year, Facebook had also rolled out disputed tag and gave users tools to report fake news.


MediaNama recently organized a conference on fake news, which saw participation from Facebook, Twitter, policy makers and politicians. Read our coverage here: