Coronavirus Climbs Up Keyword Block Lists, Squeezing News Publishers’ Programmatic Revenues

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Block lists coronavirus
A woman wearing a face mask walks at the Yaba Mainland hospital where an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip, the first case of the COVID-19 virus, is being treated in Lagos Nigeria Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Image: AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba

News publishers are feeling the squeeze on their programmatic revenues as brands and platforms add the word “coronavirus” to their keyword block lists amid global pandemonium over the spreading viral threat.

Keyword block lists prevent a brand’s advertising from appearing next to content that includes those words and can be an effective form of protecting a brand’s reputation.

“Coronavirus” became the second-most common word – after “Trump” – on block lists for news publishers in February, according to Integral Ad Science (IAS) data, and the third-most common block list entry across the open web.

Platforms, including YouTube and Chinese social media app WeChat, have censored content containing the word “coronavirus” from viewers.

A report by Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab found that WeChat, owned by Chinese firm Tencent, blocked more words as the outbreak grew.

The block list is expected to increase to other words associated with coronavirus as the outbreak spreads.

DoubleVerify, a brand safety service, showed that the volume of content blocked because it was associated with the coronavirus had spiked in recent weeks.

Most of the content was blocked because it contained either the terms “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 epidemic, which has so far infected almost 115,000 people in 112 countries has rapidly sparked yet another “infodemic” for online platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 69: Jamarlin Martin

Jamarlin goes solo to unpack the question: Was Barack Obama the first political anti-Christ to rise in Black America? To understand the question, we have to revisit Rev. Wright and Obama’s decision to bring on political disciples David Plouffe, Joe Biden and Eric Holder.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have also ramped up their fact-checking efforts to flag posts that feature fake news, conspiracy theories, and other misinformation.

These sites are restricting exploitative advertisements that sell and promote, for instance, cures and health products for coronavirus.