Step one: create the Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau, because who could be against protecting consumers from fraud? What are you, some sort of right-wing Social Darwinist?
Step two: give the CFPB lots of money to raise awareness about fraud and protection and consumers. It’s not enough, of course. If there’s fraud next year, that’s just proof the budget should be doubled.
Step three: throw some of that money to a company described as “a top Democratic media strategist.”
“The publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times has been engaging in fraudulent online traffic practices that helped it secure a major ad buy from a US government agency, according to a new report released today by independent ad fraud researchers.
IBTimes.com, the publisher’s US business site, last year won a significant portion of a large video and display advertising campaign for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency. Social Puncher, a consulting firm that investigates online ad fraud, alleges in its report that the ads were displayed to an audience on IBTimes.com that includes a significant amount of “cheap junk traffic with a share of bots.”
Yes, it seems Newsweek — once the Pepsi to Time’s Coke, with US News and World Reports filling the role of RC Cola — was ginning up its stats with those miserable banes of the internet experience, pop-up and pop-under ads. Even better: the ads appeared on video pirating sites, which means the consumer-fraud protection ads were displayed to consumers engaged in intellectual property theft.
Behold the murky economics of annoyware:
BuzzFeed News documented the same practice on IBTimes.co.in, the Indian edition of the site. After browsing to Kissanime.ru and pressing play on a pirated anime video, a new browser tab opened up automatically. It first loaded a domain for the PopAds ad network before redirecting to Newsplatter.com, and finally landing on IBTimes.co.in.
Newsplatter is a website that appears to exist solely to route traffic from ad networks to IBT India. SimilarWeb data show the site had no traffic until it sprung to life in July 2017, racking up over 20 million visits since then. Even though the homepage of the site features auto-generated links to stories from a variety of media outlets, SimilarWeb found that 99% of its outgoing traffic is directed to IBT India.
Newsweek is graveyard-dead as a brand, which you probably knew — but the subterranean botnet machinations of this peculiar economy are fascinating.