DeepIntent decides to take on the Russian ad army
The New York City-based ad tech firm is launching what it says is the first political ad verification service by a DSP.
If you’re a Russian disinformation agent planning to disrupt next year’s federal election with fake political ads, at least one demand-side platform (DSP) is suiting up to stop you.
DeepIntent is launching today a private beta of a new feature called Verified Ads that checks whether submitted political ads originate from a genuine, US-based advertiser.
The New York City-based company says that, to its knowledge, this is the first verification layer by a DSP to weed out ads by foreign or other mysterious actors, although other kinds of ad quality filtering is increasingly common among ad tech providers. Founded last year, DeepIntent says ads handled by its platform appear on the sites of such publishers as The New York Times, Fox News and CNN.
A year after the 2016 bombardment by fake ads, shadowy political ads continue to litter the US political landscape. Just today, for instance, the Daily Beast reported on pro-Roy Moore ads in the Alabama senatorial race, delivered on Facebook and on TV by a mysterious group called America First Action.
In Verified Ads, the platform utilizes computer vision to process images, natural language text processing to analyze textual messaging and machine learning to learn from previous examples what constitutes a political message.
If an ad is determined to be political, staff members and software check whether the advertising organization is a legitimate US-based entity by requesting and examining its Articles of Formation and determining whether email addresses, IP addresses, the post-click destination page and website domains belong to that entity.
To pass muster, the domains and email addresses need to be owned and operated by the same entity as the one represented in the Articles. The entire verification process takes from 12 to 48 hours.
If the entity is authentic, the ad is rendered with a Verified icon, so users can hover over it and see such advertiser info as the registered entity name and the state where the advertiser is incorporated. A publicly available ledger also shows if the ad is authorized or financed by the candidate mentioned.
In the current beta testing with more than a dozen advertisers, CEO and co-founder Chris Paquette told me, Verified Ads has been able to detect all submitted political ads, although no fakes have yet been discovered.
Paquette said that there is “no doubt a foreign actor used money to sway our election” last year, adding that this “struck a deep chord,” so he “wanted to make sure” such attacks were not using his company’s platform.
The verification process combines both human and software filters. What happens, I asked, if Russian agents decide to send tens of thousands of fake political ads from hundreds of fake sources?
They’ll stack up like Friday afternoon traffic, he said, until they are all processed.