Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fraudulent Advertising

Thomas Carberry

For any publisher, editor, writer or consumer of the news advertising is at its core a necessary evil. Publishers and editors rely on ads for revenue to fuel the paper, but advertising is becoming harder to find for print and has proven to be an inefficient revenue stream for digital. Consumers are regularly annoyed by ads that pop up out of nowhere and linger for far too long, but they wouldn’t be able to receive the content for nearly free without those ads. 
Yet people do not often think of the woes ads themselves cause for advertisers. These of course are not ads the advertisers made but rather fraudulent ads, ones that have been injected into websites without permissions. Fraudulent ads come in many forms and are quite pervasive on the internet. Many of the ads that disrupt you from reading your morning articles are indeed fraudulent. In most cases ad fraud hurts only the advertisers by tricking them into paying more than they ought to for ads that haven’t truly been viewed.
There is quite a variety of forms of ad fraud but the most pervasive form is bots. Bots are pieces of software that perform actions automatically. Bots are supposed to trick advertisers into believing that real users interacted with their content. At first bots were simple, predictable and therefore easy to detect, but bots have gotten much more complex and can now mimic human behavior. Bots are now complex enough to fill out forms and watch videos.

However, many forms of ad fraud are carried out by humans. The most common form of ad fraud directed by actual humans is the click farm. A click farm is a large group of low-paid workers who click on ads all day without truly viewing them, so that advertisers are forced into paying for ads that weren’t beneficial. This can be detected by locating where the large concentration of clicks is coming from, if the clicks are from a developing country such as India then there is a good chance it’s ad fraud.

Hiding ads is another common form of ad fraud. This is mostly done by stacking ads on top of one another so that when a user views one ad they are actually viewing multiple, and the advertiser is stuck paying for unseen content.
Ad injection is when someone places an ad on a website without the publisher’s knowledge. This form can be rather detrimental to both advertisers and publishers because the ad that is injected into the website replaces an existing ad that the publisher is getting paid to present to their audience. In this case publishers seem to stand to lose just as much as advertisers.
Domain spoofing is when scammers are able to sell ads to low-quality websites by dishonestly presenting them as high-profile, trustworthy websites with content that is applicable to the ad. This form hurts both advertisers and publishers because the advertiser pays for unwanted ad space and publisher does not get any of the money for the ad, the scammer does.

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