Shedding Light on “Dark Ads”

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Targeted advertising lies at the heart of digital economic models and has been scrutinized with respect to the potential pathologies of discriminatory job and housing advertising along with concerns about harmful forms of manipulation and the invasive character of online data harvesting. This article takes as its focus the non-transparent forms of cultural association reproduced by targeted advertising. We call into question the ready distinction between editorial content and advertising that treats news content as a public interest good and advertising as primarily a matter of private interest and personal taste. In online media environments, it has become difficult to interrogate advertising due to their ‘dark’ nature (they are only visible to those to whom they are targeted) allowing them to avoid public scrutiny. This project puts forward a prototype for a tool that may be used to advance accountability discussions further by providing insight into how targeted advertising takes place across demographic categories. This article describes the pilot test of such a tool–one that can be deployed to reveal and illuminate patterns that emerge from targeted and dark advertising practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-774
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021


  • bias
  • Dark ads
  • democracy
  • facebook
  • social media
  • stereotyping
  • targeting
  • transparency

Cite this