U.S. Markets open in 4 hrs 32 mins

Google reportedly serves fake ads to fact-checking sites

Rob LeFebvre

It's not just Facebook that has a fake news advertising problem. Google also found evidence of Russian influence in the most recent US presidential election, and reportedly set up anti-Muslim ads (which it subsequently shut down). Now, according to a report in The New York Times, fake ads that look like news are appearing on sites that actively try and counter fake news, like Politifact and Snopes.

According to the report, the ads would lead with a controversial, clickbait-style headline, which would take readers to a legitimate-looking fake version of People or Vogue. After a headline and large photo about the fake news ("Melania isn't staying at the White House," "Televangelist Joel Osteen is leaving his wife!"), the fake article devolved into a pitch for anti-age face cream or other such product. The process is something Google calls "tabloid cloaking," something Google claims it shut down more than 1,300 accounts that were engaging in the practice last year. The Times reports that while these fake publishers used Google's AdWords system to get their fake ads to large sites, it's not clear they were targeting fact-checking sites specifically. We've reached out to Google for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

Clickbait-style fake news is a psychological problem, of course, though tech companies like Facebook and Google keep trying to throw technological solutions at the issue. The automated nature of ad-buying systems can lead to pretty much anyone putting whatever they want on sites both real and fake. According to the Times, the accounts that were revealed as fake have been terminated after the investigation began.

The New York Times

  • This article originally appeared on Engadget.