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Facebook, Twitter, YouTube reach deal with advertisers on online harms

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Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have reached a deal with their largest advertisers on harmful content online. The agreement sets common definitions of online harms, common reporting standards, and allows for independent oversight over brand safety. The deal will also give advertisers tools to better control where their ads are placed.

The deal came to fruition after 15 months of negotiations at the World Federation of Advertisers supported by other industry bodies. These negotiations accelerated in the past three months after hundreds of advertisers pulled their spending, primarily from Facebook and Instagram, for being tolerant of hate speech, in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US.

“All parties have agreed to pursue a set of harmonised metrics on issues around platform safety, advertiser safety, platform effectiveness in addressing harmful content,” the WFA said, adding that work around this would continue through November and be adopted in 2021. The alliance is still working to define “adjacency” with each platform, and then will develop standards by the end of 2020. “Platforms will provide a solution through their own systems, via third party providers or a combination thereof.”

After years of raising concerns with YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, advertisers formed the Global Alliance for Responsible Media in 2019 to reach a deal with the internet companies. The alliance includes companies such as Nestle, Pernod Ricard, Unilever, Vodafone, and Verizon.

The deal has laid down 11 kinds of harmful content, including pornography, profanity, and illegal drug consumption, which should be removed from platformswhen found, per the Financial Times. WFA was sparse with the detail, but FT reported that these categories would be graded according to risk and also established a way to judge borderline content, such as around arms, that some advertisers may object to. For more control over ads, Facebook and Twitter will provide a development roadmap by the end of the year.

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An executive of confectionery company Mars said there is “much work to be done” and it will “rely on all of our platform partners to follow through on their commitments with the pace and urgency these issues demand”.

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