Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 14 June 2023
Law stated as at: 4 August 2023
The ASA has taken significant strides towards more effective regulation through the integration of technology, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), to monitor and regulate online advertising. Since 2021, the ASA has been dedicating resources to bolster its data science capabilities and construct a specialised team to address the unique challenges posed by regulating online advertising in the digital age.
The focus of its technological advancement is the development of the Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to identify proactively online ads that violate rules and regulations. While the ASA has historically demonstrated a proactive approach to regulation, the scale of online advertising has posed considerable difficulties in efficiently monitoring compliance. A creation of the ASA’s data science team, the system is designed to sift through the huge volume of online ads and provide intelligence to ASA experts, streamlining their efforts.
The system is comprised of three components:
- Ad capture at scale. The system captures ads from social media, search and display using a mix of public sources, our own internal monitoring tools and proprietary datasets.
- AI-based filtering. Machine learning models are configured to spot the ads that are most likely to be relevant to a given issue, or to have specific compliance problems.
- Expert review. ASA experts can browse and search content related to their work via a web interface that allows them to quickly assess issues, and identify problematic examples for action.
The ASA has said that developing the capabilities of the system will be an ongoing project. At the moment, it is only focused on the subset of issues the ASA is focusing on. However, it has already had a massive impact and currently processes more than 100,000 ads each month. Notably, the system played a pivotal role in the ASA’s efforts to regulate advertising related to cryptocurrency services during 2021/2022. This involved not only the development of rules in collaboration with partners like the Financial Conduct Authority and industry stakeholders but also the monitoring of compliance and prompt actions against non-compliant ads.
Previously the ASA has been reliant on labour-intensive manual searches and public complaints to identify non-compliant ads. Now, the Active Ad Monitoring system automatically captures relevant ads and employs machine learning algorithms to flag potentially non-compliant advertisement which are then subsequently reviewed and acted upon by ASA experts. Each week, the compliance team receives a list of flagged ads, along with explanations of rule violations, enabling swift and effective actions to secure compliance and remove non-compliant ads from platforms.
This integration of AI technology and data-driven processes has yielded significant results. The Active Ad Monitoring system has already led to the amendment or withdrawal of hundreds of non-compliant ads. The ASA’s commitment extends beyond investment in AI and it is a focused on creating real-world applications that translate into a reduction of non-compliant ads.
Why this matters:
The ASA’s adoption of AI-powered Active Ad Monitoring system is pivotal as it empowers efficient, proactive, and scalable enforcement of online advertising regulations. In the ever-expanding digital landscape, AI swiftly identifies non-compliant ads, safeguarding consumers from deceptive content and ensuring fair competition. This innovative approach sets a standard for technology-driven regulatory practices, optimises resource allocation and fosters industry accountability, shaping a more transparent and responsible advertising ecosystem.