Washington – The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Research Center released a new survey experiment conducted by Morning Consult on the impact of objectionable user-generated content on social media sites and digital advertising. The experiment results find that content like hate speech, offensive material, misinformation, and other content that users consider objectionable not only damages the brand of the website or app hosting the content, but harms the brand of companies advertising on the site. The results suggest that policies requiring apps & websites to carry objectionable content could damage the digital economy through harms to digital services and companies that advertise on them.
2,235 survey respondents were randomly shown negative, positive or neutral social media posts accompanied by a brand advertisement. Respondents were then asked to rate the favorability of the brand (pre and post-treatment), association of the post with the ad, impact of the type of post on the likeability of the ad, association of the type of post with the website or app, and answer other questions. The results indicate that negative posts have a negative impact on the likeability and net favorability for branded ads, and negative posts have a negative impact on net favorability of the website or app they are displayed on. Also, the results indicate that when negative posts appear next to branded ads, respondents are more likely to report the ad and less likely to click the ad.
The experimental design controls for other factors and allows for causal inference. This large-scale quantitative survey experiment with Morning Consult is one of the first public-facing empirical results on social media users’ attribution of objectionable user-generated content to social media sites and advertisers.
The following can be attributed to CCIA Director of Research and Economics Trevor Wagener:
“CCIA’s groundbreaking large survey experiment with Morning Consult shows how must-carry policies requiring social media sites to carry all legal user-generated content, including hate speech, would harm sites by associating them with brand-damaging content and reducing the value of the sites to advertisers and business users due to decreased ad clicks and brand risks. These results show why social media sites have a strong incentive to maintain rigorous digital trust and safety practices. Not all user-generated content or engagement adds value, and harmful user-generated content can damage the two-sided market economics of social media sites and harm brand reputations.”