Artwork by Ellie Shipman

Digital advertising is a booming industry: worth over $300 billion in 2019 alone. It’s also the primary business model sustaining the internet, humanity’s most important communications tool. But as AI-powered advertising grows more pervasive and sophisticated, it is doing so without guardrails. There are few rules to ensure it doesn’t surveil, misinform, or exclude consumers. If the industry doesn’t undergo major reform, these problems will only grow more pronounced.

Twenty years ago, digital ads were little more than online billboards — pop-ups that didn’t know who was seeing the ad, or why.

But today’s AI-powered digital advertisements are exponentially more…


Why we must change the narrative on climate, before deniers do it for us

Ecosia, who plant trees as people search, inadvertantly funding climate denial through their advertising

At the time of writing this article, there are just under 6 months until the start of the most influential climate summit of a generation, COP 26. It’ll take place in November in Glasgow and in Italy and its success is crucial in keeping the entire planet on track to meet their climate targets (see below).

The problem? Conferences of this scale and calibre are being derailed by misinformation, and there are early signs of this one being a target. This disinformation comes from sources including…


CAN co-chair, Jake Dubbins of Media Bounty speaking at the UN

The Conscious Advertising Network has run on volunteer power since our first meeting 3 years ago.

In that time, we’ve spoken at the UN, put on sold out events, created training and manifestos that guide the industry and worked with our civil society partners to elevate the issues of hate and disinformation within the industry.

And now we have big news, we’ve received funding from two different funders, to continue our work, including on misinformation, hate, climate change, and platform governance.

More news to come, but our website refresh will include references to our new funders:

The Quadrature Climate Foundation


Advertising funds the internet — from the great journalism that speaks truth to power, to the social channels that connect us. But what happens when our advertising is working against our brand, or charitable intentions?

This panel discussion will dig into the complexities and ethical conundrums of using digital platforms, such as Facebook, to aid nonprofits in campaigning, organising and fundraising. Each of the panelists will share their experiences and thoughts on what non profits can do to make sure their digital presence is right for the values of both themselves and their supporters.

A lively discussion, hosted by John Lloyd of Mozilla, with Nandini Jammi of Check My Ads and Matt Derby of M+R. Listen to it here.


Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

An extract from my interview with John McCarthy at The Drum on advertising funding hate and disinformation, read the full interview here.

In an ad-funded web, big bucks from brands make a lot of disinformation sources profitable. Brands are awakening to this. Advertisers should “treat advertising spend like a resource to incubate and fund a healthy internet”. This means defunding/blocking the “bad stuff” and including quality journalism with inclusion lists.

Now, not all journalism is born equal, and what passes as “quality” is open to debate. It’s a gray area…

But for brands talking a big game on inclusion and…


A couple of months ago, I was honoured to be asked to moderate a discussion for the Association of Publishers (AOP), on behalf of The Conscious Advertising Network (CAN).

The incredible speakers: Ali Hanan of Creative Equals, Femi Taiwo of OMD, Dr Sean Ferguson of the Asia School of Business, Deborah Rosenegk of ESI Media, Anisha Doshi of Carat, and Will Kirkpatrick of O2 shared their views on what it takes to change the culture of advertising.

Listen to it here.


Advertising is the business model underpinning the web, and a key force in shaping the information environments which also shape public opinion. With that great power should come great responsibility.

However, the development and governance of the role advertising plays in shaping online spaces is being left to industry to decide on and to police. Legislative interventions are piecemeal, often unenforced, and lack an understanding of the role that advertising can play in the development of safe and citizen-focused online spaces. …


The Conscious Advertising Network was set up with a mission to ensure the ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising. For us, this starts at leadership level, and works its way down. After three years of running the initiative with shared male and female leadership, we’ve come to value the balance and perspective different outlooks can bring to decision making.

The newly published IPA Agency Census is shocking, revealing just how much women have borne the brunt of Covid-related staff cutbacks.

No wonder half of women fear gender equality is going backwards. Yes, backwards, in 2021.

A recent…


Back in the good ol’ days, climate disinformation came from high carbon companies with vested interests. Flowers spewed forth from chimneys on billboards, and coal was clean. In today’s weaponised and AI-driven information environments, it’s become even more sophisticated.

Listen to my TEDxCAT (Climate Action Tech) talk here, and pre-order your copy of the new report, Changing the Narrative here.


Right now, the web has a single reigning business model: digital advertising, a $300 billion industry annually.

This business model has upsides, like “free” access to content, tools, and platforms. But there are also steep harms — and consumers bear the brunt of them. Today’s AI-powered targeted advertisements can spread misinformation and disinformation. They can reinforce societal biases and discrimination. They can increase surveillance. And they can even harm the environment.

It may be possible to reform digital advertising to mitigate these harms, but it is also possible to introduce mainstream alternatives?

A webinar for 2020 Mozilla Festival with Nathalie Marechal of Ranking Digital Rights, Akintunde Sultan of DevCareers, and Janice Waite of Mozilla. Listen here.

Harriet Kingaby

Mozilla Fellow and co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network. Advertising, ethics, AI and climate change. Yes, they do go together.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store