The Australian Ad Observatory Project

Project Summary

The use of custom targeted advertising, known as ‘dark ads’ poses a host of potential social harms, from the re-introduction of historical forms of discriminating (targeting job or housing ads by race, for example, or job ads by race or gender, and so on); to the propagation of racist or gender stereotyping, to the spread of false and harmful information. The advertising environment is fundamentally transformed by the rise of dark ads, which continue the trend away from mass advertising, which was available to large audiences and thus subject to public scrutiny.

Our researchers have partnered with AlgorithmWatch to develop novel approaches for addressing the challenges posed by ‘dark ads’. This project aims to develop strategies for addressing the potential harms posed by ‘dark ads’ and provide accountability and transparency mechanisms for targeted advertising. This project will deliver modelling of real-world strategies for providing visibility into how targeting takes place and what its results are and develop recommendations for regulatory response to online ad targeting.


DMRC research program

This project contributes to the research within the following DMRC research programs:

Computational Communication and Culture

Digital Publics


Project team


Project partners


Project outputs


Project funding

  • Australian Government through the Australian Research Council – ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S)