Home Technology Billions of advertising dollars are sinking into fake sites

Billions of advertising dollars are sinking into fake sites

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Billions of advertising dollars are sinking into fake sites

Generative AI has given a new boost to fake sites that profit from advertising
(photo: CC0 Public Domain)

In the Internet space, they appear inincreasingly websites pumped with AI-generated content and designed to automatically place “programmerads” in them. At the same time, such sites often spread misinformation.

Advertisers are facing a new kind of unscrupulous looting of their budgets. More than 140 major brands are advertising on fake sites whose content is entirely generated using chatbots, research firm NewsGuard has found.

Most of the ads that end up on these sites come from Google, even though the company’s policy prohibits advertising on sites that contain “spam-like, automatically generated content,” the MIT Technology Review noted.

A large number of companies that advertise on the web practice automated purchase of advertising space through special online platforms. Programmatic advertising means buying customized impressions that only the target audience will see. Which resources are best suited for this is determined based on audience data and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms based on complex calculations.

As a result of this methodology, advertisers can pay to have their messages placed on sites they know nothing about. Human involvement in the process is minimal, if any.

Naturally, all kinds of lovers of quick money try to use programmatic advertising. Various “content farms” and “ad sites” began to appear, where for a very modest fee people create low-quality content for the sole purpose of attracting robots that automatically place ads.

Tactics used include clickbait, autoplay videos, pop-ups, and anything else that allows the creators of such sites to squeeze as much money as possible from advertisers.

According to the National Association of Advertisers, up to 21% of ad impressions come from such “junk” sites. In general, advertisers lose about 13 billion dollars a year from such web-resources.

With the advent of generative chatbots, the situation has become even more complicated: according to NewsGuard, an average of 25 new sites appear every week jammed with AI-generated content, mostly news. These web resources do not inspire confidence, but at the same time the intensity of content production in them is colossal: one of the sites publishes up to 1200 articles per day.

Some sites are more persuasive than others. Their admins even create the illusion of an entire newsroom – with fake AI-generated bios and photos.

However, NewsGuard has found a way to identify fake sites. Because they are generated automatically, without human verification, they contain abundant text, typical of chatbots. For example, phrases characteristic of ChatGPT are often observed when the bot refuses to process a request for ethical and moral reasons.

Big brands rarely approve manual placement of ads, relying on the good faith of sites that are directly involved in the distribution of ads on network resources. The largest such advertising operator is GoogleAds, whose rules prohibit the publication of advertisements on questionable resources. And yet, up to 90% of ads on content farms still come from Google.

The misinformation found on such resources deserves special attention. According to the MTR post, the economic dynamics of content farms already encourage the creation of clickbait sites that are full of outright lies. After NewsGuard contacted Google, the company removed ads from many fake sites.

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