On 10th March, propaganda video blogger Dhruv Rathee posted on Facebook that BJP supporting pages on Facebook spent ₹2.3 crore on Facebook ads in just one month. He also claimed that this is 70% of all money spent on Facebook advertisements from India.
To his post, a Facebook user replied with a screenshot showing that Dhruv Rathee himself was advertising his video on Youtube. The screenshot showed a Youtube search ad for Rathee’s video on Rafale deal.
To this, he claimed that it is Photoshopped, and he never spent money on advertising to promote his videos on Youtube.
This is a completely false claim be Dhruv Rathee, because the screenshot is real, not Photoshopped as he claims. When we searched for the term ‘Rafale deal’, we also got an ad for his video on the top of the search results.
This is known as ‘In discovery ad’ on Youtube, where advertisements for selected video is shown when someone searches videos using specified search terms, or when similar videos are seen on Youtube.
Several persons on Facebook countered Dhruv by saying that the image is not fake and they saw the ad themselves. Caught lying red-handed, he used a new excuse in his defence. He gave a very strange claim saying that some unknown person is doing promotion in his name. He claimed that it is not done from his account and he has no idea who was doing it.
One needs to spend money to run advertisements promoting a video, so it is rather strange that someone will be spending money on a video created by someone else. Dhruv’s videos are political in nature, and the most likely candidates who could have spent money on his videos would be political parties which are helped by his videos. More importantly, Dhruv Rathee has monetised his Youtube channel, which means he is running ads on videos posted by him on Youtube, and earning money from those ads through his Google Adsense account. If it is true that someone else is paying to promote his videos, it means someone else is indirectly helping him earn more money by promoting his video.
This points towards a dangerous trend that may be taking place in Youtube, where political parties may be promoting videos that help in spreading their propaganda without taking responsibility for what is being shown or said in such videos. This means anyone can create a video filled with lies targeting a political party, and a rival political party can run ads promoting that video. With increased focus on the influence of social media on politics in various countries, this is also a matter that should be looked into by both the social media companies and authorities.
Several people also raised the doubt whether someone can promote videos they don’t own. So we looked into this aspect also, also Google policy says that to advertise copyrighted content, one must either own the copyright or be legally authorized to advertise with it, it does not seem to prohibit promoting videos uploaded by someone else.
We tested this by trying to create an In Discovery advertisement for a video we don’t own, and we were successful in doing so. As shown in the screenshots here, we created a test campaign to promote a video posted by the Youtube channel of PM Narendra Modi, and the campaign was successfully created. There was no need to obtain permission from the owner of the account that posted the video for promoting the same. This means technically Dhruv Rathee’s claim that someone else may have paid to promote his video may be correct.
Although Dhruv Rathee had claimed that he had no knowledge of the ad, just hours after he was confronted with it, the ad was taken down. Now when searches the keyword, the ad is not shown. This means the advertisement was removed after people pointed out the same to him. If someone else was running the campaign, that entity must be monitoring Dhruv Rathee’s Facebook account so closely 24 hours a day that the moment someone raised a question about ads of his video, the ad was taken down. This seems too far-fetched, thus increasing the possibility that the ad was being run by the team of Dhruv Rathee itself.
By the way, if you need to watch any YouTube clip on Rafale deal, it’s this one: