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As we’ve discussed on the show, online advertisements are the shifting, unstable sand on which the contemporary internet is built. And one of the many, many ways in which the online ad ecosystem is confusing and opaque involves how advertisers can find their ads popping up alongside content they’d rather not be associated with—and, all too often, not having any idea how that happened.

This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke to Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin of the Check My Ads Institute. Their goal is to serve as a watchdog for the ad industry, and they’ve just started a campaign to let companies know—and call them out—when their ads are showing up next to content published by far-right figures like Steve Bannon who supported the Jan. 6 insurrection. So what is it about the ads industry that makes things so opaque, even for the companies paying to have their ads appear online? What techniques do Claire and Nandini use to trace ad distribution? And how do advertisers usually respond when Check My Ads alerts them that they’re funding “brand unsafe” content?

Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Nandini Jammi is an activist, brand safety consultant, and a co-founder of the Check My Ads agency.
Claire Atkin is the CEO and co-founder of Check My Ads Institute and a brand safety advocate.

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