Google Ran a Secret Test and Found Millions of Fake Ads

Digital advertising industry faces an $18 billion integrity crisis.

July 23, 2017 5:00 am
Google Chrome's new software release is creating problems for publications.
Google Chrome's new software release is creating problems for publications. (Fairfax Media via Getty)

It’s not just fake news that’s a big problem; there’s now also an epidemic of fake ads.

Recently, Google conducted a secret test with major media websites to test for bogus ads and found millions of them. It’s part of a digital advertising industry initiative, called “ads.txt,” to root out fraud.

Business Insider reports Google has teamed up with media companies like NBC, CBS, and the New York Times to find companies selling ad spots on their sites when they don’t appear there. The bogus practice, known as “spoofing,” is enabled by programmatic ads purchased on exchanges, which rely on algorithms to determine price and placement instead of direct negotations with websites.

Spoofing is a catch-all term for fraudulent ads that are purchased low-quality websites and sold under the premise that they’ll appear on high-quality ones. It’s incredibly common and estimated to cost the global ad industry $18 billion in 2017, according to Business Insider.

In addition to spoofing, ad space can be sold to sites that give the illusion of being high-quality based on metrics. Yet, these analytics can be easily manipulated with the use of bots, computer programs that mimic human behavior, in order to make it look like more people are visiting these website when they are not.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.