Tourism Nova Scotia has modified its advertising purchases after one of its ads was spotted on controversial right-wing media outlet Breitbart News.
The crown corporation in charge of the province’s advertising has confirmed its advertisement appeared on Breitbart News, but says that it was the result of a Facebook algorithm and not a conscious choice to advertise on the website.
“As a practice, Tourism Nova Scotia does not directly purchase advertising in publications that fall into controversial content categories (such as politics, sexual/dating, gambling),” Alex Handley, spokesperson for Tourism Nova Scotia, wrote in an email.
According to Handley, Tourism Nova Scotia does maintain a list of websites — also known as a media blacklist — that it considers “incompatible with Nova Scotia’s tourism brand.”
Whenever the corporation directly purchases digital advertising, it makes sure that it’s clear the advertising is not to run on the ‘blacklisted’ websites.
The reason this ad was observed on Breitbart is due to the complex nature of purchasing digital advertising. The “buy” that Tourism Nova Scotia went with allowed Facebook’s algorithm to determine if “web pages and/or the content on those pages was offensive.”
“The ad was likely served to a potential visitor who clicked on a Breitbart link in their Facebook feed,” said Handley.
“Facebook identified this person as a potential target because they met our demographic and geographic targeting criteria. The content on the Breitbart page where the ad was served did not meet the criteria of what Facebook deems as offensive content.”
According to Reuters News, Breitbart is popular with the alt-right, a loose grouping characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics that includes neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.
Handley told Global News that Breitbart News has been on its media blacklist since 2014.
Since images of the advertisement on Breitbart began circulating on social media, Tourism Nova Scotia has contacted its media buyer and asked that the ads not be shown on third-party sites, even if they are reached through Facebook.
“We have taken this step to endeavor to ensure that all Tourism Nova Scotia advertising appears on sites that are complementary to our brand, no matter what the media buy,” wrote Handley.
“We are confident that the steps taken with our media buyer will reduce the risk of this happening again.”
With files from Reuters