The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) has unveiled its strategy to create a more sustainable and responsible digital environment that protects consumers, the media industry and society.

Between July and September 2019, an estimated 620 million pieces of harmful content were removed by YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Because of the platforms’ investments in teams and tools, the majority of this content was removed before consumers actually saw them. However, approximately 9.2 million pieces of harmful content still reached consumers during that 3-month period, equating to roughly one piece of harmful content viewed per second[i].

The GARM is taking action in a collaborative approach to protecting the four billon consumers online today, with the goal of eliminating harmful online content and ensuring that bad actors have no access to advertiser funding. In addition to being profiled as a Lighthouse Project by the World Economic Forum, a series that spotlights the ways in which stakeholders are making concrete progress to address the biggest challenges of our time, the GARM has now been officially recognised as a key project for 2020 in Shaping the Future of Media Entertainment and Culture platform.

The Alliance was launched in June 2019 by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) in partnership with its US member, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). The initiative continues to be driven by WFA and brings together an unprecedented coalition representing $97 billion in global advertising spending through 39 advertisers, six agency holding companies, seven leading media platforms and seven industry associations.

The coalition will accelerate progress by means of a three-pronged action plan starting June onwards:

Shared definitions: The Alliance has developed and will adopt common definitions to ensure that the advertising industry is categorizing harmful content in the same way. The 11 key definitions covering areas such as explicit content, drugs, spam and terrorism will enable platforms, agencies and advertisers to a shared understanding of what is harmful content and how to protect vulnerable audiences, such as children. Establishing these standards is the first step needed to stop harmful content from being monetised through advertising.

Common tools and systems: The Alliance will develop and adopt common tools that will create better links across advertiser controls, media agencies tools, and the platform efforts to categorize content. Creating these linkages will improve transparency and accuracy in how media investments are steered towards safer consumer experiences – in images, videos and editorial comments. 

Independent oversight: The Alliance will establish shared measurement standards so that the industry and platforms can fairly assess their ability to block, demonetize, and take down harmful content. Transparency via common measures, methodology for advertisers, agencies and platforms is key to guiding actions that enhance safety for consumers. Adopting key measures and agreeing to independent verification will be key to driving improvement for all parties, which we will look to track annually. A special working group from the GARM will be activating this strategy starting in April.

This new strategy is a major step forward to accelerating and integrating important efforts on improving safety across the media supply chain. The long-term vision is to drive growth and connectivity for society on ad-supported media platforms, which foster and enable civil dialogue. Going forward, GARM is committed to taking further bold steps which represent the industry’s unique contribution to the challenge of eliminating harmful content, complementing the approaches that have been taken by governments and online platforms.

“Advertisers can play a unique role in improving the digital ecosystem that we all want to enjoy. Given that brands fund many of the platforms and content providers, we can ensure society gets the benefits of connectivity without the downsides that have sadly also emerged. These first steps by the GARM are a significant move in the right direction, which will benefit consumers, society and brands. I’m delighted that the WFA has played such a key role in corralling the different actors of the digital ecosystem behind such a compelling common action plan,” said Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO.


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Written 22nd January 2020
By Sarah Chetta