Christina Yeung, Umar Iqbal, Yekaterina Tsipenyuk O'Neil, Tadayoshi Kohno and Franziska Roesner.
The Web Conference (WebConf), May 2023. Spotlight Paper.
Online ads are a major source of information on the web. The mass reach of online advertising is often leveraged for information dissemination, at times with an objective to influence public opinion (e.g., election misinformation). We hypothesized that online advertising, due to its reach and potential, might have been used to spread information around the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Thus, to understand the online ad ecosystem during this conflict, we conducted a five-month long large-scale measurement study of online advertising in Ukraine, Russia, and the US. We studied advertising trends of ad platforms that delivered ads in Ukraine, Russia, and the US and conducted an in-depth qualitative analysis of the conflict-related ad content. We found that prominent US-based advertisers continued to support Russian websites, and a portion of online ads were used to spread conflict-related information, including protesting the invasion, and spreading awareness, which might have otherwise potentially been censored in Russia.
Dataset: Because some of the ad data is potentially sensitive (e.g., may be circumventing censorship), we are not making it publicly available at this time. For researchers who are interested in accessing our dataset, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/pHQe2b7FrfJkZtph8
Related Research: The University of Washington Security and Privacy Research Lab has been studying risks from online advertising for over a decade. You can learn more about our other research on this topic here: https://ads.cs.washington.edu.