Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lying clickbait: Celebrity libel edition

Today on Yahoo Finance I saw a sponsored article that went beyond lying clickbait and stepped into the libel zone.
The promoted article titled “The 30 craziest drug transformations” implies that actor Steve Zahn has turned into a drug-crazed criminal. It features side-by-side photos of Zahn and a disheveled man in a mug shot. It implies the two are one in the same.
I searched online and found the mystery photo belonged to a man named Trevor Newbauer who reportedly had been arrested for disorderly conduct. The mug shot has been featured in multiple photo compilations of funny mug shots, rednecks and mullets.
Yahoo did not provide information about which online content distributor is responsible for the post. The post says only “Sponsored” in light print. Yahoo is one of the least transparent organizations when it comes to providing information on sponsored articles.
A Yahoo FAQ on its ad policies reveals that it works with numerous third-party advertising partners, including Adblade and Outbrain.
Linking a person, even a public figure, to a crime or drug abuse are among the major red flags in libel law.
This sort of lying clickbait could be damaging to Zahn’s career and livelihood.
All it would take is one casting director who sees this ad and makes a decision not to cast Zahn because of it.

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