Fake traffic comes from various forms of online trickery, in which legitimate users accidentally or unwittingly click on links that generate ads. Some of it is sent by bots or botnets. Advertisers end up paying for that fake traffic through ad exchanges, when their automated real-time bidding buys end up on web sites that appear to have huge audiences. Those audiences, however, are composed of a high proportion of questionable traffic.
The six companies are AdOn, Adknowledge, eZanga, Jema Media, MGID and BlueLink Marketing, Adweek says.
One of those companies, Adknowledge, is a major buyer of Facebook ads through its AdParlor unit. The company denied Adweek's claims, as did most of the other companies. Adknowledge president Marco Ilardi said: "We have 300 people and have invested millions in this business. We are not this company that is out there just trying to make a buck. In fact, we want to know about it if we have any traffic issues." But Adweek added:
Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman, who has tracked Web fraud for years, has cited Adknowledge for suspicious behavior in 21 different reports for his clients last year and six more this year. He's flagged AdOn 10 times.
"Certainly AdOn, Adknowledge, Jema and eZanga sell plenty of non-user-initiated traffic, such as adware, popups, forced visits and the like," he said. "For most advertisers, this isn't what they’re looking for. It’s the very opposite of targeted traffic."
We previously noted that there are about 500 "ghost" sites on the web on which major advertisers are paying for ads that get shown to questionable audiences and traffic that's partially made of bots. Up to 14% of mobile traffic may be bots.
One botnet, called "Chameleon," serves traffic to 200 sites.
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