Vodafone has implemented new rules designed to ensure that its products and services are not advertised on outlets that promote hate speech and fake news.

The UK-based operator said automated advertising, which uses algorithms to target specific demographics, can “in a small minority of instances...lead to unintended and potentially harmful outcomes”.

In particular, the company said it was aiming to avoid advertising on unnamed outlets that deliberately degrade women or vulnerable minorities as well as those that present fact-based news that has no credible primary source.

A spokesperson told European Communications that the company had "from time to time" seen examples of its ads appearing in places "we really do not want them to appear", without specifying exactly where.

Such occurences did not happen often, the spokesperson reiterated, but "enough for us to realise that this was a problem that had the potential to grow quickly".

Vodafone, which has a global advertising budget of £700-750 million, half of which is dedicated to digital, said its global agency network, Google and Facebook had implemented “a whitelist-based approach using content controls” to weed out places where it does not wish its ads to appear.

“Those controls ensure that Vodafone advertisements are only served within selected outlets identified as highly unlikely to be focused on harmful content,” a statement read.

The new rules, which are mandatory and already in effect, mean all third parties acting on Vodafone’s behalf as well as advertising platform suppliers “must take all measures necessary” to ensure that the operator’s advertising does not appear within hate speech and fake news outlets.

Vodafone said it defined "outlets" as social media, digital, print and broadcast channels, sites, apps, programmes and publications.

Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said: "Hate speech and fake news threaten to undermine the principles of respect and trust that bind communities together.

“Vodafone has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion; we also greatly value the integrity of the democratic processes and institutions that are often the targets of purveyors of fake news.

“We will not tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content."

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