Mark Warner calls on FTC, Google to address digital ad fraud
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Banking Committee, wrote a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons expressing concern following a report published by Buzzfeed detailing continued prevalence of digital advertising fraud and inaction by Google to curb these efforts.
According Buzzfeed, this scheme has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent advertising revenues, with operations spanning more than 125 Android apps and websites.
In July 2016, Sen. Warner and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote to FTC Chairwoman Ramirez calling on the agency to protect consumers from the growing digital ad fraud phenomenon. Since then, reports have estimated that digital ad fraud has only grown to $7.4 billion in 2017 – and projected to rise to $10.9 billion by 2021.
At the center of Buzzfeed’s report is Google, the only tech company absent for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s September hearing on social media’s role in protecting elections from misinformation and disinformation. The extent to which many popular online communications technologies have been exploited – and their providers caught repeatedly flat-footed – has been continuously highlighted in the course of investigating Russia’s unprecedented inference in the 2016 election.
In the same way that bots, trolls, click-farms, fake pages and groups, ads, and algorithm-gaming can be used to propagate political disinformation, these same tools can – and have – been used to assist click fraud in digital advertising markets and efforts to convince large numbers of users to download malicious apps on their phones.