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Promoting Fake Advertising Using Google’s AdWords and AdSense

This article from the New York Times talks about the imperfection in Google ads and the ways in which fake advertisers and publishers design their sites as to gain credibility for their advertisements. Recently, Google has been seen promoting fake news advertisements about celebrities, such as Melania Trump and Joanna and Chip Gaines, that have been seen on fact-checking sites such as Politifact and Snopes. This is especially worrisome for these pages, whose mission is to dispel such false statements and to publish truthful articles. The misleading articles are designed to mock popular magazines such as Vogue and People, starting with a few sentences about the topic, then transitioning into an irrelevant advertisement. Their irrelevance to the content being advertised is a problem for Google’s advertising platforms, which do care about the validity of their advertisements over purely generating revenue.

We’re currently learning about how search engines sell their advertising slots using the principles of matching markets, the Vickrey Clarke Groves mechanism, or the generalized second price auction. In our analysis of selling slots to different advertisers, we assumed that there is a fixed clickthrough rate for each slot, but in real-life advertising, the clickthrough rate definitely depends on the quality of the ad as well. AdWords is Google’s method of selling advertisement slots, in which the parameters in which people see the ads can be changed so that ads are more relevant to a target audience. It charges advertisers per click or phone call they receive. AdSense is another method for Google to display their ads among a more widespread audience, using relevant content to promote their ads. It allows other websites to publish Google ads and gives them a chance to generate revenue from it as well. AdSense is thus especially troubling for the fact-checking sites, which earn a large profit from promoting Google ads, as they cannot control what advertising content is being displayed on their site. It further gives advertisers an uncertainty of where their content is being displayed and if it is indeed reaching the intended audience. Although Google has taken measures to suspend advertisers and publishers who are suspected of publishing misleading advertisements and articles, it is important that they take measures to update their AdSense system to assess the validity of each ad before it gets published. However, in such a large industry, especially one in which Google makes most of its revenue, it is difficult to fact-check every single advertisement that gets passed through AdWords. This prevents search engines from developing their modern methods of displaying ads to be formulaic so as to prevent false advertising companies to spread misleading articles.




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