Could Robert Leathern’s Facebook Departure Be a Chance to Tighten Ad Integrity?

Updated October 6, 2023

Following a tumultuous year for sponsored online information, Facebook’s chief of advertising integrity has departed his role. Robert Leathern, director of product management, announced his departure from Facebook to remain in a consumer privacy role looking beyond ads and social media. Leathern had taken some flak in recent years for allowing misinformation to be so readily shared on the platform with regards to politics and health. How important is ad integrity in the age of information?

Facebook Departure

Source: Pixabay

A New Direction for Facebook Ad Integrity

Leathern had previously come under fire for Facebook’s policy regarding political advertising. Since the dawn of politics, dirty campaigns have been run that have used fear and misinformation to cast doubt about political opponents. While hearsay sometimes sticks, people are more inclined to believe what they read on social media. But the social media giant was accused of not handling misinformation better. As such, it was even pushed to stop political advertising in the run-up to the November 2020 US Presidential Election.

Ads on social media, to certain users, are taken as gospel. For instance, according to The Guardian, older users are more likely to believe things they see online. Having the information attached to an ad gives it legitimacy. So, while Facebook has come under fire for what it has allowed as ads, the importance of preventing malicious ads can be seen across the board.

Leathern’s departure could usher in a new era of ad integrity as his successor aims to tackle negative content. Tackling misinformation and ensuring the platform is trustworthy should be the priority of Leathern’s successor. But the issues with Facebook are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ad integrity and ensuring that consumers aren’t duped into accepting malware too.

Companies Can Be Harmed from Malicious Ads

While Facebook may be prolific for misinformation, malicious ads – which deposit malware onto a user’s computer – are also high on the agenda. As GeoEdge suggests, integrity with digital advertising is of growing importance and involves ensuring that customers experience quality with their digital ads. They monitor ads to ensure that a brand’s reputation is maintained by blocking anything malicious. Malicious ads – such as those which suggest that there is a cure doctors don’t want you to know about – can sometimes slip through and cause trouble for companies, especially when linked to them.

For example, the British finance expert behind Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, has been vocal about how ads using his likeness, which then tricked people into losing money, caused him much distress. Despite winning in court, the company that ran the ads still managed to take £1.5 million from unsuspecting people. The ads used the trusted persona of Lewis to suggest that people invest into the scam. Not only have people lost money, but confidence in who they can trust online has been eroded.

Ultimately, ad integrity is important. Not only do misinformation and malicious ads grind down trust in the digital sphere, but they can do harm to companies and individuals. Monitoring ad integrity should be a priority for Facebook going forwards, as well as something that other companies should look to do.