July 21, 2020: In line with recent advice issued by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) we are encouraging all ACA members to cease the use of the racially-loaded terms blacklist and whitelist when referring to the content and sites they want excluded or included in their media campaigns.

Words matter and we need to undertake all viable actions to chase out bias. Our request is simple:

  • Change the narrative: Use the term Inclusion List in place of Whitelist and Exclusion List, if you use one, in place of Blacklist.
  • Embed it in your operations: Update all operating documents, particularly contracts between you, your agencies, platforms and technology partners to reflect this shift.
  • Activate your network: As marketing leaders and representatives of your organizations, please cascade this shift and politely call out the need for change when you see others who have not adopted the same framework.

Additionally, we see this as a positive opportunity to reset some of our wider approaches in this space. While brand safety technology is vital to stopping fake news and reducing hate speech, it can have unintended consequences in accidentally excluding minority voices or defunding diverse media.

We need to take strong stands to ensure consumer safety but find approaches to brand suitability which still support an active journalism industry. As such, there are three further steps we’d encourage you to take:

  • Embrace active inclusion: Look at how you can actively include diverse media titles or networks within your inclusion lists to positively reach and support these audiences.
  • Consider doing away with exclusion lists for media placement altogether, as their default is to accept new suppliers. These new sites may be sites you previously excluded, now recycled under a new domain.
  • However, if you continue to use exclusion lists, review your lists for content to ensure they do not contain broad and generic words which might accidentally defund positive coverage of minority communities.

The language we choose to use impacts our internal cultures and society more broadly, and that doesn’t stop with the ‘blacklist/whitelist’ binomial. The same considerations should be applied across the board in how we use other language which has accidental gender, age or racial implications.