Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Tech giants not doing enough to stop fake clicks on adverts, report says

Advertising fraud has plagued companies that pay online platforms based on views and clicks

A report by Method Media Intelligence alleges Facebook has the technology to block fraudulent activity but only uses it at the account registration stage, not for logins, viewing content or engaging with advertisements. Reuters
A report by Method Media Intelligence alleges Facebook has the technology to block fraudulent activity but only uses it at the account registration stage, not for logins, viewing content or engaging with advertisements. Reuters

Facebook can block bots from viewing and clicking on advertisements but the social media company isn’t doing enough to stop it, web analytics firm Method Media Intelligence found.

Advertising fraud has plagued companies that pay online platforms including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing for views, clicks, likes and app installations. Robot-controlled browsers, or bots, have become more sophisticated in imitating human activity such as clicking advertisements, opening web pages, downloading apps and filling out forms. That’s causing advertisers to pay more for fake activity, MMI said on Monday in a report.

Facebook charges advertisers for views and clicks. An investigation by MMI revealed that the company makes it easy for bots to log in, view pages and click ads. The report alleges the California-based social media giant has the technology to block fraudulent activity but only deploys it at the account registration stage, not for logins, viewing content or engaging with ads.

“These advertising companies are getting paid by views and clicks. They stand to benefit from those, whether they are humans or not,” said Sachin Dhar, director of research and strategy at MMI. “It’s a lot easier to do this than people think and it’s not illegal.”

MMI simulated an automated browser logging in to the Facebook platform and the software was able to interact with ads visible on the page. By detecting and blocking bots from registering new accounts on its platform, Facebook has shown it can successfully implement bot-blocking techniques, MMI said.

Alphabet’s Google stops short of gathering valuable information on potential bot traffic, MMI also said. “What Google is doing is not even trying to measure whether a browser or device being used to click an advertisement is a bot or not,” Mr Dhar said. “They are not collecting any of the parameters that are useful in making that judgement.”

Advertisers depend on technology companies to accurately report who saw their ads and whether they were effective. Mr Dhar said based on MMI’s clients, advertisement spending on views that are actually from bots can often account for 20 per cent of an advertiser’s budget.

Updated: September 15, 2020 09:56 AM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email