Fake News

O2 joins Conscious Advertising Network to fight Fake 5G News

O2 is the first network operator to join CAN

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O2 has joined the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) to help in the fight against Fake 5G News. CAN is a voluntary coalition of over 70 organisations set up to ensure that industry ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising.

O2 says it has worked closely with industry partners and the Government to share a range of content across social and earned media to help educate people on the facts around 5G conspiracy theories.  Through its partnership with CAN, and in particular the support of its Fake News manifesto, O2 is adding an extra layer of support in combating 5G misinformation.

There is declining trust in online communications, with desktop European ad blocking rates at 25.6%4. Rising levels of ad fraud blight the industry and the looming ePrivacy legislation could see more untargeted ads, reducing ROI for brands in the longer term.

Brands are seen as guardians of personal data on social media sites: most consumers feel that brands should take responsibility for ensuring that social media platforms safeguard personal data (71%), curb the spread of fake news (70%) and shield them from offensive content (68%) .

CAN’s goal can be divided into six manifestos: anti ad-fraud, diversity, informed consent, hate speech, children’s wellbeing, and fake news. It is the latter of these that most overtly impacts the telecoms industry.

As the first network operator to join CAN, O2 says it is committed to protecting frontline engineers and informing the public about the misinformation surrounding conspiracy theories connecting 5G with the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been cases of public harassment of engineers who work every day so that Britain can stay connected and conspiracy theorists are damaging and vandalising mobile masts.

It’s vital to note that it’s not necessarily 5G masts being destroyed, they are 3G and 4G masts, which are keeping the country connected, vulnerable people in touch with loved ones and allowing emergency services to respond to those in need. This includes the abuse of engineers working on a mast that serves the Nightingale hospital in East London.

Nina Bibby, CMO, O2, says: 

“As the first network operator to join CAN we are marking our commitment to helping the industry establish clear ethics and practices that positively impact customers’ lives and wellbeing.  The misinformation around 5G is just one example of the damage that fake news can cause. 

As a provider of technology it is our responsibility to ensure it is used as a positive force for good and we look forward to working together with CAN to help tackle these industry challenges.”

5G has a tumultuous relationship with advertising in general. As part of the surge to push 5G technology into the public eye, many advertising campaigns have fallen foul of ad regulators around the world.

This year alone, the ASA has banned EE ads claiming they’re the number one network, banned Three UK ads for its ‘If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G’ slogan, and banned BT and O2 ads for being “misleading”.

CAN was created to eradicate ad fraud, ensure that content is as diverse as the people who make up the industry and to prevent brands from funding fake news or hate speech. Its mission is to stop advertising abuse, by highlighting the conscious choices advertisers and agencies make to ensure good practice.

Co-founder and co-chair of CAN, Jake Dubbins says:

“Now more than ever, we need to put an end to the spread of conspiracy theories that are destroying infrastructures. During the current pandemic, the country is reliant on networks that allow us to work safely at home and keep in touch with loved ones.

We are excited to have O2 join us in the fight to reduce misleading and inaccurate content, and pushing for organisations to take a responsible position on this contentious issue. Brands need to know the role advertising plays in funding fake news and the responsibility of avoiding funding misinformation and divisive content.”

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