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

15 Sep 2020 11:36 AM
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Facebook can block bots from viewing and clicking on advertisements however the social media company isn’t doing enough to avoid 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 triggering advertisers to pay more for fake activity, MMI said on Monday in a written report.

Facebook charges advertisers for views and clicks. A study 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 gets 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 receiving paid by views and clicks. They stand to benefit from those, if they are humans or not,” said Sachin Dhar, director of research and strategy at MMI. “It’s a whole lot easier to do that than people think and it’s not illegal.”

MMI simulated an automated browser logging into the Facebook platform and the program was able to connect to ads noticeable 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 does 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 aren't collecting the parameters that are of help to make that judgement.”

Advertisers rely upon technology companies to accurately report who saw their advertising and whether they were effective. Mr Dhar said predicated on MMI’s clients, advertisement spending on views that are actually from bots could account for 20 {per cent|%