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By Nat Ives
Some readers were surprised Wednesday when Teen Vogue published an article on its website headlined "How Facebook Is Helping Ensure the Integrity of the 2020 Election."
"As the 2020 campaign gains speed, Facebook is taking measures to protect against foreign interference and stop the spread of misinformation," Teen Vogue's article began. "Social media is a fertile space for civic participation, and Facebook is at the forefront of encouraging civic discourse. But with the company's huge platform comes huge responsibility."
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, and Rob Leathern, director of product management at Facebook, shared the article on social media.
Given the tide of misinformation on Facebook and its policy not to fact-check ads by politicians, some observers asked if the article was actually sponsored content.
Teen Vogue soon added an editor's note stipulating that the article was in fact sponsored. Then the online publication removed the note and, soon after, erased the entire piece from the internet. "Uh-Oh," an error message on Teen Vogue's website now reads.
Facebook had commissioned sponsored content as part of a larger sponsorship of the three-day Teen Vogue Summit last November, but ultimately changed its mind about that aspect of the deal, according to a person familiar with the situation. The article was already in the system at Teen Vogue, however, and a communications lapse led to its publication and mislabeling.
"We had a paid partnership with Teen Vogue related to their women's summit, which included sponsored content," Facebook said in a statement. "Our team understood this story was purely editorial, but there was a misunderstanding."
A spokesman for Teen Vogue publisher Condé Nast said a series of labeling errors led to the article's publication and apologized for any confusion about it. "We don't take our audience's trust for granted, and ultimately decided that the piece should be taken down entirely to avoid further confusion," the spokesman added.
Sponsored content that mimics the editorial content around it but that is labeled as advertising has become common on websites and social media.
"Sponsored content is valuable to marketers because it leverages the expertise in storytelling at the media organization in a trusted environment," said Jason Kint, chief executive officer of Digital Content Next, a trade association for premium publishers. "Having it be properly labeled so that the audience knows it is sponsored content is critical to maintaining that trust."
Write to Nat Ives at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 08, 2020 20:42 ET (01:42 GMT)
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