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BW Businessworld

Making Digital Safe As It Becomes People’s First Approach

If inclusion and efficiency were key themes for marketers, safety of brand and user is becoming paramount for social media players

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Corrections and course control in the digital marketing world have been the key areas of focus this year. Trade jargons such as viewability, brand safety and ad measurement have found a greater share of headline than ever before. Marketers are constantly pushing digital platforms to adhere to a set of rules that has governed the movement of advertising dollars for decades.

In the midst of all this, ‘safety’ deserves special mention. The first half of the year has seen marketers fret, nearly obsess over this. Fake news was already a concern. To add insult to injury, brand advertising began appearing adjacent to extremist and at times inappropriate content.

Some brands took a strong call and froze advertising on platforms as massive as Google. Not that it made any impact on Google’s advertising revenue, but it certainly pushed platforms, Google and others, to go all out in perfecting brand safe environments.

What is a brand safe environment? Simply put, this pertains to ensuring that the ethos and values a brand embodies are reflected in the environment — digital or otherwise — it is seen on. Given the strict regulations that guided content on television and print, mainstream media was rarely posed with a dilemma such as this.

Freedom of expression for long has guided online content. Any attempt to question it, came with larger implications of, if control over content and expression was ever to be exerted, where would one draw the line, and more importantly, who would call the shots. The year 2017 was when this argument did not hold enough water, and the control mechanisms kicked in.

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter began with the ‘easier’ problems first — tackling fake news. From manually removing posts to working on inabilities to recreate new accounts for barred users, to a much more robust content monitoring system, multiple checks have been induced. Artificial intelligence (AI) and tech-powered solutions have been explored to right the wrongs.

The true challenge, however, is going to come in the next phase. This is much closer to the user in fact. Twitter for long has been criticised for its inability to address trolling and cyber abuse. Many even quoted this as a significant reason contributing to the unsuccessful sale of the platform when it was seeking suitors.

This year, Twitter has gone all out. And not just with cyber bullying. Last month, Twitter announced that it is now taking 10 times the action against the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year. It also now limits account functionality or places suspensions on thousands more abusive accounts each day.

In the last four months alone, Twitter has removed twice the number of accounts that engage in inappropriate content. Beyond technology, its teams are continuing to review content daily to enforce its policies.

All these are undoubtedly steps in the right direction. The bigger change at play here is the fact that digital platforms have put a new meaning to consumer/user first. They have always said that people on their platforms came before the advertising revenue, government queries or anything else. Now, they are truly walking that line in at least one aspect of the concerns that were developing fast in the so-called wild west of the digital world.

Make no mistake — the ‘west’ is still ‘wild’, but the sheriff is now more hands on, and this is likely to help. All these moves are signalling a single inevitable outcome — digital will take over other forms of media as the platform of choice, and that future is not very far.